While the major fault of Edge of Tomorrow is that it tries too hard to have that “cool” factor — mainly its use of CGI and sci-fi premise — its biggest strength is knowing exactly what it is. Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) understands that he’s making a fun action flick in the vein of classic blockbusters, even if its subject matter doesn’t appear that way. Not only is it fun, it’s funny, enjoyable, and competent. It isn’t destined for classic status, but it’s a testament that these kinds of movies still get made.
For many, the film will recall some sort of mashup between Groundhog Day and — the admittedly better — Source Code, but that’s only because of its time loop premise. The basics are that there is an unknown alien invasion slowly overtaking Western Europe. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), an American, works in the media relations division and is sent to England to assist General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) with his campaign, only to have Brigham force him into infantry after Cage refuses to be a part of the front line in a battle that day. With no combat training, Cage soon kills an alien “mimic” and dies. Only he reawakens back at the base, earlier that same day.
He soon discovers he’s somehow become entwined with the alien beings, with the ability to reset time. The only other person who understands his predicament is Rita Vrataska (Emily Blunt) who, in the newly created combat “jackets” (essentially a robot suit), has become a symbol of Earth’s determination to win the war. She, too, experienced the same thing, only to lose the power at some point. With her guidance, she trains Cage and, along with scientist Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), convinces him that he’s Earth’s only hope.
So, the film essentially relives the same day over and over as Cage not only becomes more comfortable in battle, but begins to devise a strategy for defeating the alien race. Fortunately, Liman uses the perpetual deja vu to his advantage, finding its humor wherever he can, but without winking too hard at the audience. Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome — who resembles an older version of his iconic Private William Hudson from Aliens — becomes the butt of many of the jokes, as he’s the one charged with pushing Cage into battle that day.
But Liman can only craft a film so well, and its up to Cruise and Blunt to carry it the rest of the way, which they do in style. Cruise is at his best as Cage, the reluctant action hero whose completely self-aware, but slowly comes into his own, thinking only of the task at hand. It’s Blunt’s Rita who becomes his mentor and leader. While the two have a great chemistry on screen, Liman is wise to sideline any possible romantic involvement they may have. Instead, the film focuses on their friendship as a result of their only day together, repeated ad nauseum. Only Cage retains the memory of each day, whereas Rita has to go through the daily hoops of being convinced by him about their mission.
It’s a clever film that works well because it doesn’t try to be deep or insightful. It has its moments of clarity, but it focuses on their operation and, most importantly, has fun doing so. Cruise is a perfect choice for the role of Cage, creating a character that becomes a hero only because he has no other choice. Blunt also proves that she has what it takes to be an action star and adds depth to an otherwise shallow character. But Edge of Tomorrow isn’t as concerned with its characters as it is its story — and it ends up being the right choice for the material.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5