Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Doug Liman got his start really by directing the film Swingers but he’s best known for his action pics including Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and The Bourne Identity. He has a talent for high energy fast paced action. It seems that Tom Cruise has an interest lately in light popcorn science fiction. Cruise previously appeared in the live action Wall-E also known as Oblivion and now he’s in Liman’s science fiction version of Groundhog Day; Edge of Tomorrow. The movie is loosely based on the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need is Kill.
It’s a little simplistic to call this Groundhog Day with aliens but that seems to be the trend on the interwebs. The concept wasn’t crafted for that romcom; it’s a plot tool that has been used before. Without specifically looking back it feels like something that might have happened as far back as The Twilight Zone, but don’t quote me on that. At any rate Cruise plays a publicist for the military trying to put some positive spin on a war that humans are losing against invading aliens. The use of new super powered exo-suits won a battle against the aliens and promises to finally turn the tide. Things go south for Cruises character aggressively named “Cage” (last name of course) when he is ordered to the front lines with a camera crew to record a major victory that is all but guaranteed by these new weapons. In a refreshing twist that we haven’t really seen since Magnolia Cruise isn’t playing the perfect hero, or even the reluctant one. Cage simply does not want to go to the front lines and he tries his damnedest to avoid it. Through some overheated and weakly written scenes Cruise ends up tasered and force to the front lines demoted to grunt status and forced to fight in a weapon he has never even touched. Within minutes of the battle Cruise is dead, another thing we haven’t seen from the actor before. Wait a minute though, shaken he finds himself waking up from being tasered and starting the whole day over again.
Cage tries to better himself and survive the fight with little success until he meets Rita a, badass fighter, who is the best at killing the aliens. She knows what cage is going through and when they eventually connect after one of Cage’s deaths she decides to train cage so he can fight and hopefully find a way to beat the aliens. Rita is played by Emily Blunt and as small as she is her acting chops make her believable along with the bulky battle suit. Cruise too does fine work here even if it is in his wheelhouse. Bill Paxton is cheesy and over the top but funny when he hits the right beats. Speaking of funny this is not the movie I expected to find a lot of humor in but honestly there are some smirk inducing moments and they are supposed to be, usually centered on the many ways that Cage dies as he tries to figure out what’s happening around him.
Edge of Tomorrow has a lot going for it including tightly executed but easy to follow action scenes, a clever use of story to build suspense even though the main character gets to start over if he makes a mistake, and great acting throughout the film. There are a few unfortunate things that keep the film from making the impact it really should have made and some of them aren’t any the fault of the film. Elysium stole Edge of Tomorrow’s thunder last year in the imagery department. In fact the battle suit idea feels a little worn by now. The alien designs are lacking drama and feel a little messy coming off as kind of blobs with tentacles. It would be nice to see some truly unique interesting aliens on film. Finally as bad a hiccup as the scene that set cage into his adventure is the closing scene of the film is just as bad. The film had a great place to stop but it kept going just a few minutes too long. I’ve heard some people have taken issue with the light application of romance to the film. I don’t have a problem with it in theory I just think it’s sloppy. Cage has spent countless days with Rita and gets to know her more and more every day. She on the other hand starts fresh with him every day. The idea of having Cage fall for her without her reciprocating is an interesting one. The problem is by the final act she does appear to care for him a little more than she should since she’s only known him for a few hours.
Even with those complaints lodged this film is still smarter than your average alien invasion film, more suspenseful, and better directed. I believe the writers of the screenplay may have left the previously mentioned missteps in because they were focused on crafting a story that you couldn’t easily think your way out of. They establish the rules early on and quickly regarding the resets if Cage dies and they really stick to it all the way to the poor last scene. Probably more important than anything else I’ve mentioned is that Edge of Tomorrow is entertaining from beginning to end and it never makes you feel dumb for investing in it. Are you listening Pacific Rim?