Tom Cruise is and has been many things. As of late he’s been one thing primarily: Predictable. That, among several other things, is what chiefly makes Edge of Tomorrow, based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need is Kill, such an unexpected treat.
Doug Liman’s sci-fi actioner is high concept pulp. Scripted by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, it’s a tight action adventure that harkens back to the genre fare of the 80s. There’s little to no fat here as we’re thrown straight in to proceedings. A montage of news and personal videos fill us in that Earth has been invaded by an alien force that has all but annexed the entirety of Europe, Africa and Asia. In response humanity has formed the UDF, United Defence Front, to attempt to resist. Having recently developed mobile exoskeletons to increase soldier’s fighting capacity, the UDF has just won their first victory, mostly on the back of the fighting skills of Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). Now a last ditch invasion of France with the entire strength of their fighting force is in the cards, an attempt to take back Europe from the aliens. That’s where the film proper begins and where most of it ends up taking place.
Through means that become clear later on, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a PR man whose title is more for show than anything else, is imbued with the ability to awake the day before the invasion begins every time he’s killed, retaining his memories of past events. From there it’s up to him, with instrumental help from a few others, to figure out how he can leverage this in humanity’ favor.
This is handily Cruise’s most compelling role in at least a decade, and it’s apparent from the first scene, where he pleads with Brendan Gleeson’s character to keep him out of the forefront of the invasion. William Cage is afraid, unsure, insecure and incapable. There’s no overstating how refreshing this character is for Cruise. For once he doesn’t have some inherent skill or ability that propels him forward. It’s literally a defining trait of his acting career, but here he only reaches a point where he can take care of situations due to the fact that he’s repeated it hundreds of times, he knows what’s going to happen and has learned it. That’s where Rita Vrataski reenters. She is a complete badass, and the most capable warrior in the UDF. Rita is equally important to the plot and without her, Cage would never be within sight of success. Blunt plays the role with complete confidence and there’s never a doubt in your mind that she’s not 100% able to pull of what she’s doing. As a result, your faith in her abilities will be absolute.
Just watching the two of them interact with each other and the great supporting cast (Bill Paxton is a delight), as well as how the film showcases the weight that the time-loop has on Cage, is fun enough but Liman also delivers spectacular action sequences, the first, shell-shocking beach landing which evokes some of the greatest war films ever made being the highlight. The action is gritty and kinetic, well staged and captured in manner that ensures coherence but also manages to feel impactful in the “we’re-right-there-in-the-shit” kind of way. The Groundhog Day meets Aliens premise is mined for all its worth throughout this well-paced film before the filmmakers smartly flip the script in the third act, changing the rules to ensure that the stakes remain high and our investment feels worthwhile. All in all, it’s a fantastically executed sci-fi action film.
Surprisingly enough it’s also really funny, an element completely obscured in the marketing. Much humor is mined from Cage not only knowing how things are going to play out but also his many, many, many failures and deaths. In that sense the film is very interestingly built around failure, and failure as a learning process.
Edge of Tomorrow is supremely fun thrill ride, practically everything you could ask for in a summer blockbuster. It’s execution over originality, though it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly derivative, as the leads are great and the fiction is tight enough to ensure a good time without just shutting off your brain.
The Good: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, the action, humor and dialog. Just tons and tons of good stuff that terrific fun to watch.
The Bad: Outside of the out-of-place pop song (especially egregious when you have Christophe Beck scoring) that kicks in with the credits? Nothing.
The Ugly: The aliens are ugly buggers, with great designs that move like nothing you’ve ever seen.