Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, and Noah Taylor.
An interesting trajectory has happened to the career of Tom Cruise over the course of the last fifteen years or so. The man who was once self-assuredly the number one box office attraction in the world has been starring in low-key fare like Vanilla Sky and science fiction romps like last year’s Oblivion. Sure he has the Mission Impossible franchise in his back pocket. But films like the ones mentioned above have taken his unquestionable charisma and turned roles that would falter under somebody else’s weight into fun to watch fare. The fact that a film like Edge of Tomorrow is opening in the beginning of summer says a lot. It’s not a comic book franchise like X-Men, nor a big budget creature feature like Godzilla. So why would a studio take a film based on a Japanese novel and open it against films such as those? Because of who is front and center on the poster. Which makes it surprising that Edge of Tomorrow is tracking as low as it is, and the film is proving to be yet another high budget Cruise starring action film opening on low-key buzz. Pundits are saying that there is almost zero chance of Edge of Tomorrow making back its $175 million budget. Which is a shame because, truth be told, Edge of Tomorrow is the most fun I have had at the movies in quite some time.
The film’s storyline is proof positive that Groundhog Day and Source Code had a child. Cruise plays William Cage, a member of the protecting Earth from alien beings agency United Defense Force. Cage gets deployed to a French beach (not coincidently made to look like the beach in real life history’s D-Day) to fight Mimics, the most ferocious of attacking aliens. In the midst of battle, Cage gets a literal taste of alien blood in his mouth and his day starts over. Throughout the days in which he gets a second chance, he meets Rita (Blunt) a tough as nails soldier who trains Cage to be better. Will Cage finally be able to save the world, or is the unending scenario he’s being thrown into destined to ruin and end not only his life, but the world as well?
As stated above, Edge of Tomorrow is based on a Japanese novel called All You Need Is Kill. The impulse to change the title into something more summer friendly was the right one. Screenwriters Jez & John-Henry Butterworth and Christopher McQuarrie have taken the storyline and streamlined it into a terrifically tight woven action script. Director Doug Liman has always been off and on with me. His first film Go happens to be one of my favorites, and while Edge of Tomorrow will never be confused for that movie’s cogent character elements, the way he slowly unravels Cage’s vulnerabilities is what makes Edge of Tomorrow as good as it is.
Cruise is his usual charismatic self, and it is because of him & the way he is written that Edge of Tomorrow’s life’s an unending video game scenario never tires (a complaint I had about Source Code). A daring decision made by the film proves to be its most inventive, as there is a scientific explanation given for its plot. The person who comes out of this film looking like a million bucks is Blunt. While she teased her female toughness in 2012’s overrated Looper, she turns the dial to full power in both physical and hypnotic presence here. Blunt’s Rita is cinema’s strongest and smartest female warrior since Sarah Connor, and another strength in the film’s script is that instead of feeling shoe-horned in, the love story that develops between her and Cage feels completely organic, and comprehensively extends our enjoyment in the thrill ride Liman has taken us. It was nice seeing Paxton fight aliens again (though the role does prove to be a glorified cameo), and Gleeson’s unquestionable presence has never been more spot-on and better used than it is here as Cage’s commanding officer.
Like all of Liman’s other works, Edge of Tomorrow is crisply edited, and he lavishes the film in a revolving door of easy to look at metallic blue and gray palettes. Edge of Tomorrow’s final third is nothing short of exciting, with great wall to wall action and witty dialogue sprinkled throughout. The film’s script is very sharp, and you get the feeling Cruise takes great delight in knowing that not only will people who like him go to the film in order to see him learn to be a badass, haters of his will go to the film just to see him die over and over onscreen. If nothing else, I would recommend seeing this movie just for those reasons alone. I don’t recommend seeing it in 3D however, as the attempt at money grabbing is proven to be nothing more, and doesn’t add anything to the viewing experience. You would get just as much out of the experience seeing it in 2D.
Edge of Tomorrow is a highly engaging science fiction gimmicky romp. Everyone involved is in top form, and the film’s puzzle, instead of being a detriment, proves to be part of its charm. I helplessly hope the film’s smartness doesn’t cause it to get lost in the action/comic book hero shuffle of the summer months. But you can’t say they didn’t try.