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edge of tomorrow

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Directed by: Doug Liman

Editor’s Note: There are spoilers within this review, Read at your own risk. Scroll to the end paragraph and number score if you wanna avoid any potential spoilers

Edge of Tomorrow opens up with a montage of faux news reports explaining that five years ago what was thought to be an asteroid crashed in Europe. This asteroid was just a disguise for an alien invasion force, which in the five years since landing has taken over all of Europe. During that time the UDF or United Defense Force while managing to slow the advance of the Mimics, as the aliens have been dubbed, has never managed to actually win a battle until now. Which Major William Cage, Tom Cruise, charismatically explains on every major news network is entirely due to the development of a new powered armor that soldiers only need a limited amount of training in before they stand toe to toe with the Mimics in the field. After winning a milestone victory in Verdun, Major Cage, a former PR executive, spearheads a media campaign recruiting cannon fodder for an upcoming invasion of France where the UDF hopes to turn the tide of the war and start pushing the Mimics back.

Shortly before the invasion Major Cage meets with General Brigham, Brendan Gleeson, and the good General informs Cage that in a couple of days he will be embedded with the frontline troops as they hit the beach filming all the abundant acts of heroism, gallantry and general Mimic ass-kickery that are sure to be on display. Despite what this could do for his career this is the last thing that Major Cage feels like doing. He joined the army because the war had indirectly destroyed his PR firm, he does what he does to get away from the fighting. When begging to be allowed anywhere else other than that French beach doesn’t move the General he resorts to a clumsy attempt at blackmail, which just results in his arrest. When Cage flees his arresting officers he gets tazered and wakes up for the first time on the tarmac at Heathrow airport which is being used as a staging ground for the invasion which is now just one day away. Because of the blackmail attempt Cage now finds that he will be hitting the beach as a Private and instead of commanding a camera crew he will be piloting one of the powered suits he has been hawking for the last months but has never actually worn.

When the time comes Cage lasts about five minutes before his luck runs out. He spends his last remaining minutes trying to figure out how to switch the safety on his weapons off. Which he does just in time to blast a Mimic that has just come up on top of him. While he manages to kill the Mimic it’s blood splatters all over him and eats right through him like acid. If you’ve seen the trailers you know this doesn’t actually kill him. The next thing Cage knows he’s waking back up on the tarmac at Heathrow. Turns out that the Mimics have a limited ability to control time. If they are losing a battle they can reset to the day before. Cage’s bath of Mimic blood has transferred that ability to him. To everyone else it’s still the previous morning, but he remembers everything, which lets him live just a little bit longer when he hits the beach the next time. It always ends the same though. Something kills him and he wakes back up on the tarmac with one day to live. It’s like Groundhog Day but instead of getting Andie MacDowell to fall in love with him he’s got to figure out how to win a war in a day.

It’s a neat premise. Who hasn’t dreamed of the chance to go back and relive a moment until you got it exactly right? What if though, it’s such a bad day that it’s impossible to get it right? What happens when no matter what you do, no matter how perfectly you execute every task everyone still ends up dead? What happens when you have weeks or months of memories with people but every time you see them they see you as a stranger? Beyond the thought experiment aspects there are some problems with the idea from a dramatic perspective. In a fantasy comedy/love story like Groundhog Day it was fine to simply have a protagonist that got to start the day over no matter how bad things got. But how do you build any suspense or tension if you’re going for more than just chuckles and warm fuzzies. The answer is you give the protagonist weaknesses just like Edge of Tomorrow does. Cage has the ability now, but he can lose it. The Mimics are aware that this ability as been taken from them and is being used against them and as you might suspect they are not powerless against it.

One of the things that can be annoying in movies like this is that they abuse your powers of disbelief. To make the impossible plausible the storytellers have to be consistent in their world building. Too many things that don’t make any sense and the whole premise starts to come down like a house of cards. Edge of Tomorrow mostly stays consistent. I can’t think of any moments in the film where you start thinking “well if they can do this, why don’t they just do that”. The only bits that are hard to swallow come at the beginning and the end. The whole setup getting Cage to the Heathrow tarmac before the invasion still seems a little contrived and while I liked the ending the movie would be stronger if it ended about a three minutes earlier. Another thing Edge of Tomorrow got right is the casting, this is exactly the type of movie that Tom Cruise is great in. He sells the fear, the resignation, the rage, the pain as well as being believable as a bad ass. The same can be said for Emily Blunt who plays the role of his trainer/partner. Bill Paxton is a lot of fun playing a Master Sergeant and ranting about the “crucible of battle”.

The action is solid and there is a lot of it, interestingly in just one day the story manages to pack in everything from full on beach landings to car chases through London and the French countryside, to running battles in iconic locations. The CG is good but it’s not breathtaking. I saw the movie in 3D, the 3D was actually pretty good but I can’t think of a scene that would suffer for being in just 2D, save the couple of bucks and skip the 3D on this one. Edge of Tomorrow is a fun film but it does have some problems, which unfortunately bookend the film. If you strip out the Groundhog Day premise in many ways it’s just a standard alien invasion movie, but it is a bit smarter and a bit tighter story wise than your typical summer blockbuster sci-fi action movie. Your suspension of disbelief muscle is not going to get worked as hard in Edge of Tomorrow as I think it will in some other movies coming up this summer.