‘Edge of Tomorrow’, the new sci-fi action blockbuster by Doug Liman (‘The Bourne Identity’, ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’), mashes together the time-loop story concept with an alien invasion action flick with incredibly great results. What could have been clichéd and repetitive instead feels fresh and streamed lined in a way that I think will surprise most.
The film stars Tom Cruise as Major William Cage, a man with a very limited military background who essentially made his way through the ranks with his public relations skills. In the film’s opening we see briefly, through news clips, that the world has been invaded by an alien race known as “Mimics” who have taken control of much of Europe. They are quick and intelligent and seem to evolve to always be one step ahead of the human forces trying to keep them out of Asia, Africa and the United States.
When the UDF (United Defense Force), a joint military unit that utilizes mechanical exoskeletons to create “super soldiers”, decides to go on the offensive with a surprise assault on Mimic forces in Germany, Cage inadvertently finds himself on the front lines, and it is a slaughter. The Mimics again appear to have anticipated the surprise assault. Cage is killed quickly, but in doing so manages to take out a Mimic at the same time. Seconds after his death he awakens to find himself back on base as the whole day starts over again.
More confused and afraid than before he relives the day, dying once again…only to wake back up on base. This repeats and repeats and Cage is clueless as to why. That is until he manages to save Rita Vrataski, a special forces solider who has become the face of the UDF movement after she managed to lead their only victory.
Rita realizes what Cage is experiencing and tells him to find her the next time his day resets, which he does. She explains to him that the Mimics have the ability to control time, to reset the day to continually evolve to get the upper hand. Cage now possesses this ability, and he must use it to find the source of the Mimics power and end the invasion once and for all. In order to do so Cage must continue to live and die, repeating the day over and over again, until he is skilled enough to make his way through the Mimic forces.
What makes ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ so much more effective and so much better than many similar films is its confidence in its story right up to the very last frame. It never once sways from its initial concept or goes out of its way to manipulate the audience’s emotions. Instead, it sticks to its guns with a tone and ending that make logical sense considering the progression and emotions of the story. I think this is mainly due to the fact that everyone involved is on board. They give it there all for great laughs, kick ass action sequences, and even an emotional undertone that makes you actually want to see these characters succeed. The actors are clearly having fun, while also making sure the seriousness of the film’s themes are not lost below all the mayhem.
This makes ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ one of those rare blockbusters that have an emotional weight making it more than just eye candy. That emotion is most prominent when we see Cage bear the burden of witnessing those around him die over and over again. It weighs heavily on him, especially as he begins to realize that he might not be able to both save those he cares about and accomplish his mission to save humanity. What could have just been mindless fun instead becomes an existential tale of human perseverance, sacrifice and courage against seemingly impossible odds. Through Cage we begin to care for those around him as well. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time a film introduced a group of rather one-dimensional characters, especially a cliché band of roughneck soldiers, and by the third act I was actually caring if they lived or died.
That said, this isn’t some “downer”. There are some BIG laughs to be had. Seeing Cage early in the film being killed, in all sorts of fashions, is a blast. The action sequences are fast paced and exciting; and there are even a few scares here and there to keep it all fun and thrilling.
What’s even better is ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ doesn’t beat you over the head with these themes or emotions. They stay just below the surface and naturally flow through the story and characters. Because of this I really have to applaud Doug Liman for pulling this all off. It is no easy feat to create a time looping sci-fi alien invasion action film without being repetitive or shallow; or worse, being so convoluted that everything except the action gets lost along the way, which was my biggest worry going in.
I also have to applaud its two stars. Tom Cruise is great as Major Cage, and this is easily my favorite film and performance of his since ‘Minority Report’. He gets a bad rap for his personal life, but at the end of the day he is still an actor with great talent and star power. He does a fantastic job here in showing the development – verbally, emotionally and physically – of Cage as he goes from a cowardly officer, visibly weighed down by the suit and scared of a pin drop in the films opening – to the courageous, skilled and determined soldier in the third act who is the world’s only hope.
That being said, the real star of the film, as far as I am concerned, was Emily Blunt who plays the kickass Rita Vrataski, aka The Angel of Verdun, aka The Full Metal Bitch! …and boy does she do those nicknames justice! (see below) Her goal is to win no matter the costs, because she has gone through hell and back and it has taken its toll, and Blunt expresses this effortlessly. Even better is the fact that she isn’t just a female companion for our hero to swoon over.
At this point it is probably clear that I enjoyed ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, but “enjoyed” would be an understatement. I LOVED it. This is easily my favorite blockbuster so far this summer, and quite possibly my favorite one in the last few years. We have been swamped by so many sequels and remakes that it is truly a joy to watch something that feels so fresh. It is the sort of film I can see myself watching again and again and again. So, if you are in the mood for an entertaining and creative sci-fi flick, with action, laughs, a few scares and an emotional weight behind it all, then this is a must see.