More like… ‘Edge of your seat’.
With films like The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith under his belt (as well as Swingers and Go), director Doug Liman is no stranger to directing top notch action sequences that simultaneously contribute to clever storytelling. Edge of Tomorrow has some of the most gripping battle scenes in quite some time, but also clever humor, solid action, and a surprisingly engaging yet quasi-familiar plot. All the pieces work together. Tom Cruise, one of the last remaining movie stars (in the traditional sense of the term), is terrific as usual, but he doesn’t carry the film. Neither does a strong co-lead in Emily Blunt. Nor do the insanely gripping action sequences and phenomenal effects. No, Edge of Tomorrow is carried proudly on the shoulders of everyone involved. It’s a fast-paced A-grade blockbuster through and through, one that provides the intense action, clever plot twists, and smart sense of fun that most blockbusters fail to deliver.
Edge of Tomorrow, which is loosely based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill, centers around Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a smooth talking yet timid officer who is thrust to the front lines of a deciding battle between human military forces and an alien species, called Mimics, that have taken over most of Western Europe. When Major Cage, who is unfit for combat, is killed within the first few minutes of the beach invasion, he awakens earlier that day, forced to relive it again, then over and over again each time he’s killed. During one of these rounds, he locates a war hero, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), that understands what’s happening to him and they begin working together to use this “power” in their struggle to save the human race.
Now, whether you love or hate or tolerate Tom Cruise, there’s no denying that he gives his all to every performance. He’s picky, and understandably so. Despite a career that spans over thirty years, since 1981, he only has 41 acting credits (per IMDB). For comparison, Channing Tatum already has 40 acting credits (per IMDB — including War of the Worlds, coincidentally), but his first appearance was only as far back as 2004. No offense to Mr. Tatum but there are many sub-par films in that rapidly expanding filmography of his. Cruise’s selectivity has resulted in his association with either good films, great films, or entertaining films, sometimes all the above, and very rarely, if ever, a bad film. Edge of Tomorrow is not even close to ending this streak. Cruise delivers a rock solid performance, and an especially well-rounded one considering the genre. It’s unusual to see a character in an action film undergo this type of transformation, and Cruise and Liman have done an excellent job at capturing the evolution. As much as I can recall, Edge of Tomorrow also marks the first time that Cruise’s well-known short stature is emphasized. Here it’s used as a way to contribute to his character’s “underdog” storyline.
But as previously mentioned, it’s not only Tom Cruise and a great performance by Emily Blunt that make Edge of Tomorrow so darn good. Many critics have already called Edge of Tomorrow “Groundhog Day meets Saving Private Ryan” or “Starship Troopers meets Source Code”. There are so many other titles to compare it to because the storyline is somewhat familiar to us. And yet, the story has just enough of a unique edge to make it feel surprisingly fresh. The humor and drama is also confidently delivered thanks to a strong script that doesn’t rely on obnoxious clichés or hammering home an important message about humanity and love…and that boring stuff. The film isn’t without its thought-provoking twists though. You’ll be wondering about the opportunistic possibilities that would come with such an ability as the one that befalls Major Cage. Oh, and the special effects are basically perfect. The Mimics’ creature design is unique and even terrifying at times. The battle armor (the actors actually donned super heavy metal frameworks) looks awesome and the D-Day-esque beachfront battle never grows tiresome, no matter how many times we revisit the same moments.
Now that I think about it, this may be Edge of Tomorrow‘s most crowning achievement — Despite an aging actor once again headlining a science fiction action film opposite a much younger female costar (~20 yrs), a storyline that we feel we’ve maybe seen before, a blockbuster marketing campaign buried within a slew of similar campaigns for CGI-filled summer action spectacles, and a plot that calls for revisiting the same scenes over and over again…despite ALL of these factors…Edge of Tomorrow is anything but tiresome.
Edge of Tomorrow opens in Bay Area theaters June 6th, 2014.