Synopsis: An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor, Kick Gurry, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Jonas Armstrong, Franz Drameh, Masayoshi Haneda, Tony Way
Director: Doug Liman
Running Length: 113 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: I was discussing Tom Cruise with a casual acquaintance in a group setting the other day and when I mentioned how much I like his films, she responded with “Yeah, but he’ll always be that crazy couch jumper.” It’s hard to believe that nearly a decade since the couch jump heard ‘round the world people still can’t let that one go…not that Cruise has helped his case by taking a critical stance against anti-depressants and being the poster boy for Scientology in the intervening years.
As a critic, though, you have to be able to put all that aside and look at the work…and when you look at the almost thirty years of Cruise’s Hollywood ventures you’ll see a portfolio filled with major blockbusters (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), guilty pleasures (Cocktail), old-fashioned epics (Far and Away), under-appreciated misfires (Oblivion, Jack Reacher), and miscalculated bombs like Rock of Ages that Cruise managed to emerge victorious from. Put plainly…the man knows how to deliver the goods and that’s something that no amount of religious discussion or questionably hyper antics can sully.
Cruise is back in summer 2014 with the unexpectedly fun sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow, adapted from the graphic novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Already being described by critics as Groundhog Day with guns, the script from Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth rises above the simple ‘Live Die Repeat’ tagline to be a genuinely interesting mind-bender that plays by the rules (mostly) and keeps you on the edge of your seat after taking off like a rocket.
An alien race has arrived on Earth via comet and is lying waste to much of Europe. In the battle to conquer these invaders, the army has developed specialized metal suits (think Sigourney Weaver in the final battle of Aliens) as armor against some very sneaky creatures that look like Medusa heads and strike with fatal precision. Playing Cage, a cowardly lion of a military man, Cruise unwillingly finds himself moving from the face of the war recruitment effort into the front lines after running afoul of a general (Brendan Gleeson, Albert Nobbs, The Company You Keep) unimpressed with his spinelessness.
Without any training or real life knowledge of the enemies he’s fighting, Cage is dispatched to a military base where he’ll be one of the first troops to deploy on a deadly mission that plays out like the battle on Omaha Beach. Disoriented and seeing his platoon fall around him, he comes face to face with a Big Nasty Alien and dies.
Only that’s not the end, that’s just the first 20 minutes of director Doug Liman’s smashing freight train of a film. See, when Cage dies the day starts over again, back when he arrives at the base. Initially not believing it’s a convenient case déjà vu, when he continues to die in different ways only to wake up in the same spot he begins to figure out a way to change his fate and the fate of those around him.
Helping him out is Emily Blunt (Looper, The Five-Year Engagement) playing hard-ass Rita dubbed the Angel of Verdun for her impressive skills in alien extermination. Cage soon finds that he has more in common with Rita than he’d ever imagined…and soon both are working together to turn the tables on an enemy always one step ahead of them. Though the previews for Edge of Tomorrow seem to show a lot, there’s a nice hunk of story left that hasn’t been spoiled by the marketing department and certainly won’t be spoiled by me here.
Cruise is in top form (my date for the evening was heard saying several times “He’s 50! The man is 50! How does he still look like that?” in the darkened theater) and is more than happy to let Blunt get her moment in the sunshine as well. A movie star through and through, Cruise has fun playing a man of avarice humbled by his new found curse of living a bad day over and over and over. Blunt steps up to the plate in a big way, proving to be a formidable co-star and giving the impression she’s just as tough as her leading man and any of the grizzled grunts that populate the film.
Liman keeps the action going strong without muddying the waters. Originally I was a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of explosions and battle sequences but it’s all in service to how the script refines what we’re seeing as the film progresses. The musical score by Christophe Beck (Muppets Most Wanted, Endless Love) is appropriately juggernaut-y and the special effects blend seamlessly with the large scale set pieces necessary to tell the tale.
Movies are often compared to video games and in the case of Edge of Tomorrow that’s a fair comparison. In video games, when you die you get to repeat the level and do your best to try and avoid past mistakes. It’s a gimmick the film uses well and even if it bends the rules ever so slightly to get to an ending that was probably unavoidable, it’s a small nitpick for a summer blockbuster that more than gets the job done. Well worth a watch.