Cruise in for a bruis­ing

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - David Strat­ton

Edge of To­mor­row (M) Na­tional re­lease Malef­i­cent (M) Na­tional re­lease The Fault in Our Stars (M) Na­tional re­lease HE lat­est large-scale Tom Cruise ve­hi­cle, is yet an­other movie about an alien in­va­sion of the Earth. So­ci­ol­o­gists may pon­der as to why so many movies have been made on this sub­ject re­cently, but while they’re do­ing so Doug Li­man’s ex­trav­a­gant ad­ven­ture af­fords the 51-year-old su­per­star the op­por­tu­nity to have fun with a pre­pos­ter­ous sce­nario that bor­rows heav­ily from the premise of Ground­hog Day.

The film opens with news­reels ex­plain­ing that the Mim­ics, fast-mov­ing, jet-black crea­tures that look like a cross be­tween oc­to­pus and gi­ant crab, have con­quered most of Europe. The forces of Earth have gath­ered in Lon­don and are pre­par­ing to cross the Chan­nel and land on the French beaches — it’s no co­in­ci­dence that the film is open­ing around the world on June 5 and 6, to co­in­cide with the an­niver­sary of the D-Day land­ings. Hu­man­ity has re­cently scored a vic­tory over the aliens at Ver­dun (an­other know­ing ref­er­ence) and the hero­ine of that bat­tle, Rita (Emily Blunt), can be seen promi­nently on posters dis­played around the place.

Cruise plays Ma­jor Wil­liam Cage, a smug US com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer who, when he re­ports to Ma­jor Brigham (Brendan Glee­son) in Lon­don, is amazed and in­dig­nant to be or­dered to cover the next day’s bat­tle from the front­line. When he re­fuses, he’s de­moted to pri­vate, hand­cuffed, and sent into bat­tle any­way, though he has had no train­ing in the elab­o­rately clumsy ar­mour he has to wear or the weapons he has to use (”How do I get the safety off?” he keeps plead­ing, though no one an­swers.) On the beach, ca­su­al­ties are high and it seems that a mas­sacre is in progress un­til, af­ter a con­fronta­tion with one of the aliens, Cage awak­ens back in Eng­land and finds him­self re­peat­ing ex­actly what hap­pened the day be­fore. Grad­u­ally, as he keeps re­turn­ing to the start of his ad­ven­ture, he re­alises that he can al­ter the course of events, and joins forces with Rita to de­stroy the source of the aliens’ power.

Alien in­va­sions have be­come so com­mon­place on the big screen these days that it’s at least a wel­come change that a dif­fer­ent, and mildly hu­mor­ous, ap­proach has been taken this time around. The screen­play, by Christo­pher McQuar­rie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, based on Hiroshi Saku­razaka’s 2004 book, All You Need Is Kill, is, by its na­ture, repet­i­tive, but Li­man man­ages to keep the ridicu­lous story bub­bling along thanks to a bet­ter than aver­age per­for­mance from Cruise and the al­lur­ing pres­ence of Blunt as a tough-as-nails, bat­tle-hard­ened sol­dier. For good mea­sure a cou­ple of Aus­tralians aug­ment the cast: Noah Tay­lor, as a sci­en­tist who at­tempts to ex­plain to Cage and the au­di­ence what on earth is go­ing on (I’m not cer­tain I ever worked it out), and Kick Gurry, im­pres­sive as one of the soldiers. An­other Aus­tralian, Dion Beebe, was re­spon­si­ble for the cine­matog­ra­phy, and un­for­tu­nately he has gone along with Li­man’s favoured wob­bly-cam style, which de­tracts con­sid­er­ably from the drama in one or two key scenes.

Over­all, though, Edge of To­mor­row is ac­cept­able es­capist en­ter­tain­ment whose un­ex­pected plot de­vel­op­ments give it much-needed orig­i­nal­ity. The ac­tion scenes are han­dled with ex­pected skill, the he­roes are in­trepid and the crea­tures are suit­able nasty and vi­cious.

TIN the wake of other Hol­ly­wood at­tempts at post­mod­ern ver­sions of fa­mous fairy­tales (Snow White and the Hunts­man, Oz the Great

Edge of To­mor­row and Pow­er­ful) comes a lav­ishly pro­duced re­work­ing of Sleep­ing Beauty, both the orig­i­nal French story by Charles Per­rault and the much-loved 1958 Dis­ney an­i­mated ver­sion. This time, though, the em­pha­sis is on the wicked witch char­ac­ter rather than on the young beauty who be­comes the vic­tim of a ter­ri­ble curse, and An­gelina Jolie plays this char­ac­ter as a vic­tim her­self, be­trayed and mu­ti­lated by her lover.

The film un­folds in two myth­i­cal king­doms, one in­hab­ited by hu­mans, the other by fairies, trolls, pix­ies and gi­ant walk­ing trees, among other dig­i­tally cre­ated mon­sters. Malef­i­cent, played as a child by Iso­belle Molloy, is a winged fairy whose dal­liance with a hu­man farm-boy, Ste­fan (Michael Hig­gins), seems for a while like a cross-species ex­am­ple of true love. But the years pass and the older Ste­fan (Sharlto Co­p­ley) is am­bi­tious to in­herit the hu­man throne

Malef­i­cent; from the ail­ing king; he drugs the trust­ing fairy and cuts off her mag­nif­i­cent wings, se­ri­ously, but not com­pletely, af­fect­ing her pow­ers. When he be­comes king, his baby daugh­ter, Aurora, is, as a re­sult of his crime, cursed by the venge­ful Malef­i­cent, and so be­comes the Sleep­ing Beauty who will only awake af­ter True Love’s Kiss.

The film, the first di­rected by pro­duc­tion de­signer and vis­ual ef­fects whiz Robert Stromberg, earns high marks for the way it looks; this fairy­tale world is stun­ningly pho­tographed by an­other Aus­tralian vet­eran Dean Sem­ler, and the sets, cos­tumes and de­sign in gen­eral are of the first rank.

Dra­mat­i­cally, though, the film is less suc­cess­ful. Huge gaps in the plot ap­pear to have been pa­pered over with the help of an other­wise dis­pens­able nar­ra­tion, spo­ken by Janet McTeer, and the mi­nor char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Elle Fan­ning’s too-per­fect Aurora, are mostly un­in­ter­est­ing — even the trio of “cute” fairies, played by Les­ley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Tem­ple, who watch over Aurora, wear out their wel­come pretty quickly. Jolie’s face has been al­tered, mak­ing her cheeks so cav­ernous she ap­pears pos­i­tively de­formed, which pre­sum­ably wasn’t the in­ten­tion. Chil­dren prob­a­bly won’t mind any of this and will be thrilled by the time­less story, but the un­der­whelm­ing na­ture of the film is only em­pha­sised by the dreary end-cred­its ren­di­tion of Once Upon a Dream, the song from the 1958 film, per­formed here by Lana Del Rey as though it were a fu­neral dirge.

The Fault in Our Stars JOHN Green’s best­selling book,

has been brought to the screen by di­rec­tor Josh Boone and ben­e­fits enor­mously from the cen­tral per­for­mance of tal­ented Shai­lene Wood­ley, who plays Hazel, a 16-yearold suf­fer­ing from recurring lung cancer and forced to lug an oxy­gen tank with her at all times. At a self-help group run by a church she meets Gus (Ansel El­gort), an 18-year-old vir­gin who lost a leg to cancer. These two wounded and sickly char­ac­ters bond over books and pic­nics and even­tu­ally wind up in Am­s­ter­dam (chap­er­oned by Hazel’s mom, Laura Dern) where Hazel is ex­cited to meet her favourite au­thor, a self-loathing al­co­holic played by Willem Dafoe.

The film’s ma­nip­u­la­tive ill­ness-of-the-week sce­nario is en­tirely re­sistible, de­spite the best ef­forts of Wood­ley (who al­most saves the day with a sen­si­tive por­trayal).

From top, Sam Ri­ley and An­gelina Jolie in Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in

and Shai­lene Wood­ley and Ansel El­gort in

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