bestof2014-14

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Edge of Tomorrow.

The most interesting thing about Edge Of Tomorrow is that you may not recognize its name. For reasons best known to marketers and publicists, the movie was effectively renamed between its cinema and DVD release; if you’ve seen it on the shelf of your local Target or Barnes and Noble, you’ll have seen the execrable slogan “Live, Die, Repeat” on the cover instead of the marginally better Edge Of Tomorrow. On the movies’ Amazon page, the title is given as Live, Die, Repeat: Edge Of Tomorrow, which is not only the worst possible permutation of those words, but possibly the worst title anything has ever had. The film failed to find an audience on the big screen, and someone somewhere determined that Edge Of Tomorrow was off-puttingly metaphorical; Live, Die, Repeat hasn’t fared much better, so expect this movie to become Alien, Shoot, Bang when it inevitably airs on Syfy.

This is interesting because it shows the kind of insecurity and compromise that is almost entirely absent from the film itself. This is an action sci-fi movie with a thoughtful side; it doesn’t wear its philosophy on its sleeve like The Matrix — and there’s less intellectual crunch here, in any case — but its certainly following in those footsteps. Superficially, it plays like Starship Troopers without the campy snark, or Pacific Rim without the self-important bombast, but that’s really all about set-dressing: dropships, power armor, nightmarish aliens, incomprehensible amounts of ammunition. The real heart of the story is one man’s arc from cowardice to heroism as he is both empowered and tormented by the central conceit — when he dies, he begins the day over again.

Tom Cruise plays the conflicted hero with more range and vulnerability than you might expect, and Emily Blunt delivers a hard-as-nails performance that doesn’t give an inch. The film loses a little focus in the third act, and the climax is somewhat disconnected from the main conflict, but this is smart, thoughtful, action-packed science fiction. Unlike the marketing, this is a story that respects its audience, doesn’t waste a frame, and tells its story without compromise.

Get it now: Edge of Tomorrow.