In Edge of Tomorrow, mankind is under siege by alien invaders known as “The Mimics,” who have the unique ability to “reset the day,” giving them a precognitive edge that makes defeating their hordes virtually impossible. Enter Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), smarmy face of the military’s public relations propaganda campaign. When ordered to broadcast from the front lines, Cage refuses, fearing disaster; that decision to go AWOL gets him thrown into the ranks of combat soldiers against his will, on the day of a massive D-Day-style assault, no less.
When Cage gets to the battle, it’s more hellish than he ever imagined – as is his subsequent death battling a particularly formidable Mimic. However, death is not the end: upon his gruesome demise, Cage wakes up back at the start of his last day. After stumbling through a few death cycles, he is tasked with making contact with legendary soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the only person who seems to understand what’s happening to him. Under Rita’s harsh tutelage, Cage lives (and dies) the same day countless times over as he trains to be a smarter and more deadly warrior – one who can hopefully unlock the secret of the Mimics’ power, and defeat them once and for all.
Tagged as being “Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers,” Edge of Tomorrow is, at its core, a particularly slick and efficiently executed sci-fi/action B-movie. The end result is another good film from Cruise, one that actually downplays his celebrity persona in all the right ways, allowing a (semi-)interesting character story to drive the proceedings. While the movie arguably doesn’t go far enough with some of the ideas and/or story beats it introduces, its unique stylistic approach to the material makes the experience an overall satisfying one.
Bourne Identity director Doug Liman manages to bring an imaginative, polished and kinetic sci-fi action movie to life onscreen – and then distinguishes it with stylistic choices and clever edits that make the most of the Groundhog Day premise. The repetition of certain shots and/or scenes is deftly handled and serves the story without ever becoming cumbersome, gimmicky or overused – which is really a feat in and of itself. Visually, the film is a nice mix of washed-out and vibrant color palettes, which reflect (respectively) the grounded and gritty dystopian near-future, and more colorful and fantastical manga/anime tropes pulled from the All You Need Is Kill source novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. (Technical Note: Forget 3D, it’s not worth the muted colors.)
The sci-fi elements of the film – like the exoskeleton battle armor and weaponry, or the Mimic aliens – are all well realized (and rendered) onscreen. The Mimics in particular are a unique (and frightening) concept for an enemy – and overall, the action sequences in the film are thrilling, entertaining and refreshingly different from the norm. Thanks to a good script, each moment of action or violence has weight, relevance – and surprisingly enough, often humor as well.
Liman’s visual narrative makes the most out of a nice script by Fair Game writers John-Henry and Jez Butterworth; but it is the distinctive touch of Usual Suspects writer (and frequent Cruise collaborator) Christopher McQuarrie that gives Edge of Tomorrow its edge. Morbidly clever writing, witty use of repetition and well-staged comedic gags work in tandem to lace the film with a sardonic humor mined from the day repetition process -and that humor ultimately helps to sell Cage’s evolution, as well as his connection with Rita in an unorthodox but effectively understated manner.
An admitted downside of the film is the fact that the relationship aspect of the story (the core of Groundhog Day, as it were) feels truncated and somewhat undercooked. It is a tricky blend to begin with (a love story in the midst of a war story), but in the end, a lot of the more interesting ideas and/or moments of Cage and Rita’s connection are left to implication or exposition, and that loose thread nearly unravels the ending of the film. Of course, the emotional depth is cut shallow to keep the movie trimmed to a lean 112 minutes of run-and-gun action; however (and as is a growing trend this summer) there is the sense that the efficient pacing comes at the cost of a richer (albeit longer) cinematic experience.
As stated, Cruise is once again solid in his leading man role, at first mocking his own star persona (Cage is a bit of a celebrity prima donna), then underplaying it as he makes the journey from selfish coward to selfless hero. The role actually makes more use of Cruise’s range than usual, drawing on his signature physicality and dramatic intensity, but also drawing heavily on his comedic wit and timing, which has become something of a rarity to see.
Emily Blunt is all grit beauty and grace (that yoga shot will live on forever), and she turns out to be a surprisingly good foil for Cruise, adopting a deadpan frankness that sells much of the grim humor in Cage and Rita’s interactions. Again, there is a sense that there was more to Blunt’s character and performance (perhaps somewhere on the cutting room floor?), as Rita ultimately comes off as underdeveloped – which is unfortunate, because the character is worthy of more than the broad brushstrokes and vague inferences we get.
Along the way, we are treated to some welcome character cameos from the likes of an animated Bill Paxton (who chews on a few scenes, a few times over) and a stone-faced Brendan Gleeson (who gets some of the best cutaway gags). We also meet a likable enough roundup of grunts played by European/Aussie actors like Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood), Tony Way (Game of Thrones), Kick Gurry (Offspring), Franz Drameh (Attack the Block), Dragomir Mrsic (real-life former bank robber), Charlotte Riley (Entity) and Masayoshi Haneda (47 Ronin) – with Terence Maynard’s (Spy) face likely to be burned into your brain. (He’s this movie’s version of Ned Ryerson – for those who get the reference.)
In the end, Edge of Tomorrow is impressive enough for what it is, with trace hints that it could’ve been something a little bit greater, had the filmmakers chosen to delve even deeper into their characters and story. As it stands, the uniqueness of the time reset premise and sci-fi action distinguish the film from so many others in the genre, and it is at least worth a matinée viewing on the big screen. All in all, another worthwhile stop on the Tom Cruise comeback train.
Edge of Tomorrow is now in theaters. It is 113 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.
Want to discuss SPOILERS for the film? Please do so in our Edge of Tomorrow spoilers post. Confused about the “Day Reset” time-travel logic? Read our Time Loop Explanation Article. Want to hear the SR editors discuss the film? Then stay tuned to the Edge of Tomorrow episode of the #SRUnderground podcast.
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