Much like the weekend before with “Maleficent” and “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” this one features two very different films opening against each other. In one corner, we have “Edge of Tomorrow,” a sci-fi action flick about a soldier trying to find his way out of a time loop. In the other, we have “The Fault in Our Stars,” which tells the story of two teenagers with cancer whose relationship takes them on a long, emotional journey. With a considerable amount of hype behind both films, I knew that I could not possibly be forced to choose one or the other. After seeing both, I can assure you, if you are forced to make a decision, you cannot go wrong with either option.
Based on the Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill, “Edge of Tomorrow’s” narrative welcomes comparisons to “Groundhog Day,” with its protagonist Major William Cage, played by Tom Cruise, learning he is stuck in a time loop and has to die every day until an alien menace with the same power is defeated. The film opens at a breakneck pace and continues on at this blisteringly speed throughout the first half, due in large part to the nature of the narrative and the large number of exhilarating action sequences. The storytelling feels somewhat clunky during a majority of the first act. However, the feeling it gives the viewer mimics how Cruise’s character feels, so perhaps this is intentional.
While the pacing is relentless in the first half, the movie begins to slow things down in the latter half. This pacing may seem inconsistent, but it serves to expand upon the relationship between Cage and Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a Special Forces soldier who guides Cage through his training. Both Cruise and Blunt give solid performances that anchor down the film’s unusual narrative.
Because of many film conventions, one might expect the relationship between Cage and Vrataski to evolve into a romantic one given all of the screen time they have with one another, and the film does try to make this possible. None of the build-up, however, indicates that it will. A more natural evolution in the relationship would have been from colleagues in combat to one that’s closer, but still platonic, so the romance feels forced. However, this is a minor problem. Along with solid visual effects and a script that’s often quite funny, “Edge of Tomorrow” remains a thrilling action flick that grabs your attention and does not let go.
From “Edge of Tomorrow,” we move to a much more different realm in “The Fault in Our Stars.” Based on the novel of the same name, the film follows teenagers Hazel and Augustus, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, respectively. The two develop a close relationship after meeting at a cancer support group. Both characters are the center of the narrative, and both Woodley and Elgort are up for the challenge. Woodley is no less than wonderful as Hazel, while Elgort is a mercurial charmer, and the duo’s chemistry enlivens the story with their sharp wit, infectious appeal and ability to find the brighter side of the darkness surrounding them.
As delightful as the film’s more light-hearted nature is, however, it is just as equally heartbreaking, as fans of the novel already knew to be true. The darker side of the film’s proceedings makes for mature lessons on life and love, showing that the characters possess wisdom beyond their years. However, at no point does it feel overwhelming, and that is one of the better aspects of the film. The film makes frequent tonal shifts, as is to be expected, but no shift ever feels too jarring. Additionally, the humor and sadness of the story play an equal part, with none taking up a majority of the script, allowing the film to be defined by both rather than just one or the other. Overall, the film does well by its source material, inspiring tears and laughter in equal measure.
Needless to say, this weekend presents two solid films competing to be the box office winner. See one, or see both, for you cannot go wrong with whichever option you choose.
“Edge of Tomorrow” – 3 stars out of 4
“The Fault in Our Stars” – 3 stars out of 4