Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton
Tom Cruise’s last foray into science fiction was last year’s Oblivion, which was pretty to look at but also fairly stupid. Edge of Tomorrow is not so beautiful – a grim, grungy, violent world wrapped in an apocalyptic war with an alien race – but it shows some cleverness.
People will argue that it’s just Groundhog’s Day meets Starship Troopers. Yes, they’re right. Yet, for a summer popcorn flick, Edge of Tomorrow is still extremely entertaining.
Cruise portrays a smarmy advertising wonk recruited to represent our troops in a seemingly hopeless war against a creepy alien race. The aliens have conquered Europe, and millions of people have died. However – thanks to super-soldier Blunt – we’ve won a single battle. There is serious effort to spin this victory into hope for the entire war.
General Gleeson wants to send Cruise to report on the front of a major D-Day-style attack. Cruise is actually a bit of a coward; he refuses, only to be forced into the battle, leading the charge. In his first brawl with the aliens, he is killed, only to wake up, as if from a nightmare, 24 hours earlier. In fact, each time he dies, he goes back 24 hours – to the morning he was forced to take part in the battle. And each time, he learns something new.
Interesting things happens when your fear of death is supplanted with the knowledge that you’ll come back. You get braver. You also get smarter.
This gimmick is mined well for dark comedy. Whenever Cruise fails, he knows he’ll either need to be killed or commit suicide to reset the game.
As a badass soldier, Blunt gets to play a part totally unlike her many romantic roles. She performs with wicked aplomb. This performance is, in fact, a good argument against pigeonholing actors.
The film is directed by Doug Liman, who’s had hits and misses in his career (Go, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jumper, The Bourne Ultimatum). No matter the level of success, he always has a great sense of pace, and the special effects are a blast.
Edge of Tomorrow isn’t entirely without issues. A few plot holes might nag at the ol’ logic. The editing makes some giant leaps. Also – the biggest snag – the last third of the film tries to up the stakes, only to fall into the typical clichés that all summer cinema succumbs to. Certain moments – comparisons to WWII, budding romance – are downright wince-worthy. The movie’s final scenes feel overlong, a sort of letdown after the quickly paced beginning.
Still, in the center of this very fun, violent story is an easy-to-swallow message about courage and trying to shape your own fate. A braver film would’ve clearly defined how and where our hero could control his own destiny – where he succeeds and where he fails. Instead, Edge of Tomorrow accepts its own fate as a summer flick.