Have you ever wanted to see a science fiction action version of Groundhog Day? Well, here you go.
That obvious comparison is a bit misleading though. Sci-fi stories have frequently utilized this sort of circular time loop element. My
favorite is the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Cause and Effect, which was so mind-bending it had some viewers calling
the networks and claiming the broadcast was faulty.
Whether or not Edge of Tomorrow stands the test of time along with those classics, it does succeed in being an intriguing and engaging
film with a great sense of humor.
The story (Based on a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka) takes place on a war-torn Earth which has been attacked by a race of aliens called
Mimics, which burrow into the ground and resemble the squid-like Sentinels from The Matrix. Earth’s United Defense Forces have scored a
major victory against the Mimics, and are planning a European assault to cripple them once and for all.
Director Doug Liman does a superb job introducing us to this world with a series of news broadcasts reporting these events. Here we meet
Tom Cruise’s Major William Cage, a spokesman for the UDF.
For reasons the film doesn’t make entirely clear, UDF General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) orders Cage to the frontlines of the invasion on
the beaches of northern France (A not-so-subtle D-Day reference). Cage objects and is hit with a Taser and arrested.
When Cage wakes up, he has been assigned to a company of misfits who will be among the first to storm the beach.
Cruise is very good playing the cowardly, but likeable Cage. For as often as he portrays action figures, Cruise seems to be at his best
playing the less heroic everyman, and he seems to be having a lot of fun with this role.
Within minutes of the invasion, Cage is killed. The entire operation was an ambush and the Mimics decimate the UDF.
As Cage lies dying, a Mimic’s blood enters his body and he suddenly wakes up a day earlier at the exact moment when he regained
consciousness from his Taser nap. He is the only person aware of time resetting.
Cage’s newfound precognition is comic gold. Some of the film’s most enjoyable moments have fun with this concept, not to mention it
serves as an amusing role-reversal from Cruise’s character in the Steven Spielberg-directed Minority Report.
When Cage tries to save celebrated super soldier Rita (aka the Full Metal Bitch) from a fatal explosion during the invasion, she knowingly
tells him to find her when he wakes up, recognizing that he is stuck in the loop of an endless day.
Emily Blunt gives an enjoyable performance as the tough-as-nails Rita, and it’s amusing to see her in another solid time travel thriller
following the excellent Looper. I hope you’re all impressed with these connections.
(There’s even a moment where Cage drops a bunch of grenades, only afterwards revealing that he is holding the released pins a la Cruise’
s 2005 version of War of the Worlds. Okay, I promise I’m done.)
It turns out Rita previously experienced the same time looping phenomenon during a previous battle, but lost the ability. She sees Cage as
the perfect opportunity to finally end the war.
She works to train Cage, leading to some very fun sequences where he dies over and over again, many times by the hand of Rita after he
fails her training.
Through trial and error, they work to plot a route through the battlefield that won’t result in their deaths.
The director, screenwriters and editor all do an excellent job keeping these sequences fresh by emphasizing running jokes and constantly
revealing new portions of the same day as the film progresses. Despite the repetitious nature of the film, it never becomes tiresome.
Liman also directs the action sequences with energy and a palpable sense of chaos.
Edge of Tomorrow is a fun movie with an engaging premise, but it also never elevates itself above good popcorn entertainment. These
characters are never seriously developed and we don’t feel a heck of a lot for their cause.
There are also some confusing paradoxes in the film’s final sequences that are never explained. Then again, maybe the film is better off for
being a bit vague and mysterious here considering the dull exposition in a couple earlier scenes. The more pressing issue is really that the
final act isn’t as satisfying as everything that has come before it. The film loses its uniqueness when it eschews the mind-bending time
travel mechanic in favor of more generic sci-fi action late in the game.
Still, this is a very entertaining film with good performances and fun characters. We’ve seen most of it before, perhaps done better in
certain cases, but Edge of Tomorrow comes recommended, specifically to fans of the genre.
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth
& John-Henry Butterworth
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill
Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cinematography by: Dion Beebe
Released: June 6, 2014; 113 Minutes