Edge of Tomorrow is fantastic. It’s a shame that the conceit is so specific to the material. The framing device could be repeated like Die Hard, but instead of the high concept being used in different locales it could be be applied on a variety of other genres and scenarios. The possibilities for great emotion, violence, comedy, and freedom is truly a rare new facet in a very crowded marketplace when it comes to narrative devices. With that said this film is absolutely fresh and if it was possible for an expensive tentpole movie to be a sleeper this is the one. Doug Liman, Tom Cruise, and Emily Blunt have a special film on their hands and if audiences can get past their own preconceptions it’s going to be huge.
Were it told in a straightforward manner Edge of Tomorrow would be pedestrian. Offensive even, considering just how much good intelligent work is being done in the science fiction genre on television and in cinema. Like Memento, the devil dances playfully in the details and the resulting mindbender becomes something not only better than the sum of its parts but a fresh reminder that the playbook for the mainstream is still a blank canvas in the right hands. Edge of Tomorrow isn’t told in a straightforward manner. In fact, it relishes playing on its audience’s savvy knowledge of this kind of movie and subverts expectations whenever possible. The movie is all about stomping the stereotypes. Right down to its leading man.
The Tom Cruise of Edge of Tomorrow is a coward. A bureaucrat. A man perfectly willing to inspire thousands to rush off into a suicidal skirmish just as long as he’s not involved. Forced into combat by a General (an underused Brendan Gleeson) Cruise’s Major Cage tries everything in his power to avoid going into battle with the extraterrestrial “Mimics” that have besieged the planet. It’s a nice change of pace for an actor who has made his money playing proactive men who solve problems. Cage is an asshole and a soldier more likely to play dead than save the world. Part of the reason the film works so well is the choice of this character to hinge the turn of the battle upon. Cage is lucky enough to kill an Alpha Mimic, a blue-hued writhing mass of tendrils and as his own life force fades he is covered in a viscous material from within the creature. The same material that gives the creatures an advantage over humanity. One that allows them to manipulate time.
Cage awakens again at the beginning of the same day, and as he incredulously goes through the motions (including a few really fun ones with a scenery chewing Bill Paxton as a blustery leader) it begins to dawn on him that he’s stuck in the same day and as his actions change so too do the possibilities of its outcome. When he dies, often in hilarious and sudden ways, the day reboots again. It’s a great hook for a movie and once Cage comes into contact with Emily Blunt’s combat juggernaut Rita the balance finds its sweet spot as the two try to literally win the day. Fans of Tom Cruise get to see the actor stretch some new muscles as well as showcase the effortless skill he has at using every bit of energy in his person to engage his audience. This is a top five role for the actor. People who aren’t fans of Tom Cruise. Well, they get to watch him die. A lot. Some of the film’s best moments come when Cage is too wounded to continue and Rita dispatches him without hesitation. The leads play well off each other and Rita’s coldness is well-balanced by Cage’s yearning. There’s also a very fun parallel to the world of video games where the two move through the war following a pattern rather than actually fighting. They are hitting dance steps learned from repeated days of violence and loss.
In the film’s last act the film returns to a more structured narrative, though there are a few twists. Particularly in regards to just how many times Cage has repeated the day. It’s an interesting development though it is a bit irksome to see Rita relegated to a damsel in distress at times considering her proficiency as a warrior.
The total package is a polished and stunning effort and the kind of movie that showcases how as stagnant as many tentpole movies can get, creativity and great approaches to familiar genres rise above all else. This may not start a new franchise but it certainly sets a new bar. It’s an electric piece of work that should hit the spot as remakes, sequels, and superheroes invade from all directions.
Edge of Tomorrow is flat out fantastic.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars