Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry and Bill Paxton
Written By: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth
Directed By: Doug Liman
Movie heroes don’t usually get to make mistakes. Think about the dangers and impossible scenarios that James Bond and Indiana Jones have gotten themselves into, then equally impossibly out of. But, what if they made one minor, wrong and ultimately fatal misstep?
Edge of Tomorrow is the first action movie to really explore this notion with its clever implementation of a time loop as a plot device – so that every time our hero dies (which is quite often) – he resets and goes back one day prior. What we get is a new type of action hero, one that’s allowed to be human and learn from his errors.
The other thing that sets Tom Cruise’s Sgt. William Cage apart from his contemporaries is that he has no interest in starring in an action movie. Cage is a PR guy specialized in promoting the military, not fighting in it. When he’s ordered by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to serve on the front lines of an alien war, he tries to escape the situation. Here’s a man who will learn how to step up and become a selfless warrior, he isn’t one innately. Again, he’s human.
However, the enemy most certainly isn’t human in Edge of Tomorrow, a fantastically entertaining and well-made sci-fi thriller set in the not too distant future on the brink of an alien annihilation, with dystopia just around the corner.
The Groundhog Day meets Independence Day-like plot sees Cruise’s character caught in a time loop on the day of a brutal D-Day style alien battle where the humans are destined to lose (over and over again). As he continuously relives (and re-dies) this day, he becomes better equipped to fight along the way, getting closer and closer to defeating the enemy.
A large chunk of screen-time throughout the first two acts is dedicated to this battle which takes place on an abandoned beach. It’s kind of like an intergalactic and way less gory version of the opening battle in Saving Private Ryan. There’s also a bit of Starship Troopers thrown in for good measure. The action sequences and FX work throughout are astounding, the 3D in particular being up there among the best executions of the format.
Although we keep revisiting the same scenario, the film never feels repetitive because it cleverly uses its time travel plot device, when it could have just as easily used it arbitrarily. Much of the film’s humor comes from the various ways in which Cruise’s character gets killed, having to then reset and go back into battle, this time knowing better what to look out for. It’s almost like the concept of a video game, with getting another life to restart the level. However, it’s only video game-like in concept, the execution is so solidly crafted by director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith), that the movie never feels like you’re watching somebody else play a video game – a cardinal sin of moviemaking that some other sci-fi blockbusters have committed.
Emily Blunt isn’t given a whole lot of character development (neither is Cruise for that matter), but she’s very good in her role, making the best of what she has to work with. It’s refreshing to see a female action ‘side-kick’ who isn’t the ‘damsel in distress’, but arguably the better soldier. Blunt’s character, a fierce warrior dubbed ‘Full Metal Bitch’, had previously experienced the same time-loop sensation that Cruise is going through, but has since lost the power. As she’s been in his shoes before and teaches him how to properly use his new-found skill, the female lead actually becomes ‘master’ to our male lead’s ‘student’.
This is Cruise’s best starring vehicle in quite some time and the one that might bring back some of his fans who were turned off by the downward spiral of his public image. That’s probably because this is the first time in a long time where he plays a character with vulnerability. Think about some of his best roles in movies like Rain Man, The Firm, Jerry Maguire and Minority Report. What do they all have in common? Cruise plays a character who’s gotten himself into a situation that he’s not quite adept to deal with. The real Tom Cruise may share very little resemblance with the everyman, but at least here his character does.
Edge of Tomorrow could have been more satisfying on a storytelling level as there’s nothing particularly emotionally gripping about it, plus the ending is a bit of an illogical cheat. We also don’t get a great sense of any of the characters, so it’s hard to become too invested in them. However, what the film lacks in substance, it makes up for in its expert craftsmanship, impressive visuals and fantastic entertainment value.
While many summer blockbusters feel the need to approach the 2 and 1/2 hour range, at a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes (without credits), this one swiftly goes by and never outstays its welcome. A major step up from Cruise’s similarly themed Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow is a great sci-fi actioner that’s fun, fresh and guaranteed to leave fans of this genre more than satisfied.