In the midst of a rather uninspiring blockbuster season, Edge of Tomorrow would have to do something pretty special to stand out among the annual deluge of sequels, remakes/reboots, prequels and superhero flicks which we’ve all come to expect. But I’m here today to report some great news: Edge of Tomorrow really delivers as a deliriously fun blockbuster with heart that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for it. My review after the jump.
After a worldwide invasion of Earth by the hostile alien species known as the Mimics has left humanity struggling to gain the upper hand, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) does his part for the war effort by acting as a sort of public relations figure for Earth’s armed forces. When General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) prepares a surprise amphibious European assault on the Mimics, Cage finds himself forced into the front-lines despite no experience of actual combat. As chaos erupts and the battle turns into a rout of the human forces, Cage loses his life. But to his astonishment, he finds himself locked in a time loop in which he is forced to relive the same day over and over every time he is killed in combat. His only hope is the decorated veteran Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) who seems to have an intuitive grasp of what Cage is going through.
At first glance, Edge of Tomorrow appears to be another generic videogame looking actioner for the post ‘Call of Duty’ crowd. Even the use of the familiar time-loop plot device championed by such films as Groundhog Day is reminiscent of characters constantly re-spawning in first person shooter games. Coupled with the sort of exoskeleton military suits that seem to be ubiquitous in sci-fi since James Cameron made Aliens in 1986 and the reliance on news reports as background information in the first five minutes, Edge of Tomorrow looks like the same movie we’ve seen again and again. Only it’s so much more than that.
In what is possibly his most self-aware role, Cruise initially portrays his character as exactly the sort of person his detractors always accuse him of being: a smarmy, perpetually grinning idiot who is nowhere near as clever or charming as he would like to believe. His fear is palpable as he finds himself in an impossibly perilous situation in which no amount of smooth-talking can save him. The film gleefully sends up action movie clichés by asking its audience: “what would happen if a hapless, ordinary person tried to get away with performing some badass feat he has no training for?” The answer is provided in a series of amusing vignettes in which Cage is killed in a variety of darkly comic ways. One of these had me laughing for about a minute due to Cruise’s Ned Flanders-esque shriek at precisely the right, unexpected moment. But there is also real character development when Cage gradually grows a hardened, battle-weary exterior as he relives more and more iterations of his day from hell.
The film’s welcome sense of fun is shared by the rest of the cast, including an amusing Bill Paxton as Sergeant Farrell, Cage’s commanding officer. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t yell ‘Game over, man!’ at least once. Emily Blunt also impresses as Rita Vrataski, a soldier so hardcore she has received the moniker of ‘Full Metal Bitch’ and whose image now adorns propaganda like a Soviet war hero. Her performance strikes the right note between hard-as-nails and vulnerable and human. She’s a great foil for Cruise’s character and it’s a joy to see their friendship and mutual respect develop.
The film is shot crisply and the action is both easy to follow and exhilarating thanks to some nifty editing which is used to great effect when showing not only the repetition of Cage’s experiences but the ways in which he can foresee future events as a result of his unique predicament. This is a fast-paced, whip-smart film for those who like their action relentless, their plots absorbing and their characters endearing and relatable. This is easily director Doug Liman’s best since The Bourne Identity.
By Johnson Hii
Director: Doug Liman
Writer(s): Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Runtime: 113 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: June 5 2014; USA: June 6 2014