Cinema Siren says: Live, Die, Repeat, Explain.
The Edge of Tomorrow re-imagines Groundhog Day as a bloody, battle-heavy and apocalyptic war adventure, and in the process unexpectedly creates a nearly thoroughly delightful movie with a spectacle of such exciting action and engaging plot that it seems time stands still in the best possible way for viewers. This week’s release, directed by Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity), and starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, will likely blow most other films at the box office to smithereens, and deservedly so.* The only caveat to this critic’s unqualified enthusiasm is an inexplicable ending that nearly derails the entire proceedings in the last five minutes.
Cowardly yet persuasive US military PR officer Cage (Tom Cruise) is skilled in the art of spin, and has found a way to avoid real combat by using the media to spotlight the armed forces in a positive light. On the eve of a huge battle with the alien race that is decimating cities around the world, he is informed that he’ll be forcibly embedded with the advancing troops in the first wave of fighting. After being dropped into the front lines, he gets caught in a time loop where he repeats the night before and the day of the battle, and each time he dies, the experience starts again. With the help of fearless war hero Rita (Emily Blunt) he learns to fight, and together they attempt to figure out how to defeat the creatures threatening human existence.
Fangirls who love sci-fi and are consistent moviegoers are far greater in number than Hollywood has ever credited. In 1979’s Alien, Sigourney Weaver disproved their belief that female action leads were box office poison, yet since then actresses from Angelina Jolie to Jennifer Lawrence seem to have to remind the suits and bean-counters of their value and worthiness over and over again. Given that, how wonderful it is to see Blunt’s character introduced with her image emblazoned on the side of a building as a propaganda poster for war hero. The concept of the female lead being battle weary but tenaciously driven to win the war, while the male lead starts out barely knowing how to shoot his weapon is a hook that not only gives both actors meatier and more complex roles, but also shines a the most positive light on them both. Blunt shows she has every bit of what it takes to be an action hero, and is completely believable. Cruise builds a very strong arc and takes the audience, that begins will little more than distain for Cage, on a journey that ends with them completely rooting for the character. What is best, though, is the fact that there is no time in the film when the roles revert to what would be expected. Often, we moviegoers get a tiny slice of female heroism but ultimately the male lead must save the day. In The Edge of Tomorrow, the characters must do it together, or not at all. Success continues to be as dependent on her as it is on him.That the two actors have great chemistry onscreen also makes for a far more engaging cinematic experience.
The secondary characters are all perfectly cast. Brendan Gleeson is the commanding general and Bill Paxton is the the master sergeant who send the ill-equipped Cage into battle. In addition, the various members of Cage’s new fighting force, are all believable and move the story forward without slowing the breakneck pace.
The elements of humor used in even the darkest parts of the story are placed and timed injust the right way. Never before in a movie has a series of fast edits with someone being shot in the head been funny, but trust that in this film it most certainly is. We are given time to develop attachment to both the lead characters, to the benefit of the film’s enjoyment, especially since it seems there is no guarantee either will get out alive.
The one major disappointment, as mentioned before, is in the last few minutes of the movie, where it seems all the fearlessness of the filmmakers was syphoned off. For some it will be the film’s undoing, for others it will just blunt what could have been an overwhelmingly entertaining experience. Walking away from a film scratching one’s head and considering a space/time paradox is not the best way to end a Friday date night…
All in all, Edge must be recommended and should certainly be seen on the big screen. Does it rise to the level of blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past? No. As both are based in bending time, and are both in theaters vying for your box office dollars, comparisons are inevitable. However, this is the best we’ve seen from Tom Cruise in years, and Emily Blunt wears her heroism well. Rosie the Riveter would be proud.
4 out of 5 stars