The world fights a losing battle against intergalactic terrorism in “Edge of Tomorrow” when an alien race targets Earth for total destruction. The only success battling the many-limbed, squid-like monsters (called ‘Mimics’) has come from the development of advanced military “jackets” that provide soldiers with superhuman strength and a host of weaponry. General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) declares the world’s best chance at survival to be a surprise attack on the coast of France, and he orders military poster-boy Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) to the frontlines to capture the action with a television crew. But when Cage, an untrained, self-professed coward, refuses, he finds himself arrested and shipped off to battle anyway under the new rank of private. He’s given all of 24 hours to prepare for combat before he storms the beaches (still fiddling with his gun’s safety) and stumbles upon a massive, army-annihilating ambush that will knock down Earth’s forces and surrender the planet to the aliens.
Cage crawls his way up the beach and watches his squad be killed one by one before he, too, is eventually surrounded by Mimics. Just as they kill him, he shoots awake and finds himself 24 hours earlier, just arriving at the military base. Stuck in an unexplained time loop, Cage has no choice but to relive the storming of the beach over and over, dying in battle each day, being transported back, but taking with him each time the advantage of fighting a battle he’s already fought — of knowing what will happen next.
At this point in his action career, Tom Cruise has the luxury of choosing interesting projects. He’s rope-dropped from ceilings, prevented future-crime, and pulled a “4G inverted dive” in a fighter jet. So for this reason alone, “Edge of Tomorrow” had better be good, because it’s hard to see another exoskeleton-armored superstar without thinking, “haven’t we been through this again and again?” But Liman’s film, working off a script adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 Japanese novel “All You Need Is Kill” (now there’s a title), is a quintessential blend of his past work exploring the intellect of political thrillers (“The Bourne Identity”) and the intensity of giant action set pieces (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”). Liman’s experience culminates as a decent set-up for this larger-than-life sci-fi adventure that could have ended up as dumb as its “Live. Die. Repeat.” tagline, but lands on something considerably smarter than usual alien fare.
In other words, despite my presumptions of the film, Tom Cruise does not at any point shake someone while yelling, “You don’t understand! It’s like I’m stuck on the edge of tomorrow!”
There’s no getting around it, you can’t make a film about a man reliving the same day over and over without the discussion eventually coming around to “Groundhog Day.” We’ve seen the “time loop” premise crop up in all sorts of ways since that landmark Harold Ramis comedy. Films such as “Run Lola Run” and “Source Code” are comparable, but really more of the cinematic equivalent of the multi-verse theory than a true time loop caper. “Edge of Tomorrow” is connected to “Groundhog Day” in that they both do not show us multiple versions of the same day so much as they put their characters through the hell of figuring out how to solve the day. Each wrong turn Major Cage takes in his looping 24 hours leads to death, so in order to advance further he must avoid the obstacles that kill him and discover the next ones.
With enough iteration, almost anything is possible. Cage is soon able to become master of everything from avoiding gunfire to succeeding in social and romantic engagements. Liman also takes the time to construct a believable limiter on the number of times Cage can relive the day, creating some stiff tension when not having a field day with the time loop device.
There’s solid story pay-off in seeing a character that is initially terrified of death (“I’m not a soldier! I’m untrained!”) liberated from his fears and given the chance to die every day in order to become a master of war. One of the very best decisions that “Edge of Tomorrow” makes is that it has a ton of fun with the fact that Cage is going to be killed over and over – Liman isn’t above the slapstick there. There’s more deaths used to graphic and comedic effect than in “A Million Ways to Die in the West” – a 2014 comedy that stakes its very title on creative killing.
The 3D work is extremely clean – sensitive eyes will have no trouble – and is full of in-your-face effects, but is overall neither crucial nor innovative. The action sequences that dominate the bulk of the film are well done due to understated alien design that doesn’t allow screen time for excessive glorification. They pop up from beneath the Earth, obliterate their enemy with rapidly weed-wackering metal limbs, and disappear. The creatures are perfect for some badass melee action from Rita (Emily Blunt) – a helicopter-blade-wielding super-soldier nicknamed The Angel of Verdun after she singlehandedly won a large-scale battle with the Mimics. Cage eventually finds Rita and discovers she has more than a few things in common with him (cue: romance that actually adds to the science of the fiction!).
The endgame here is emblematic of most “end of the world” action plots – overlong, somewhat dull, and an abandonment of subtlety and interpersonal drama. The first 90% of the film, though, is a major comeback for Cruise as the ultimate action lead – charming, relatable, and possessing enough dramatic chops to pull it all off. With only a quiet marketing campaign, “Edge of Tomorrow” is the rare summer blockbuster that actually has a chance at living up to expectations. It’s a big, mind-bending adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t ask you to make much of its abundant World War II allusions, rocking you in your theater chair like a baby – pacified, but happy.Continue Reading Issue #5
June 6, 2014
1 hr. 53 min.
Action Adventure, Sci-Fi
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Masayoshi Haneda, Noah Taylor