Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible series, Jerry McGuire) continues with his sci-fi streak in Warner Brothers’ Edge of Tomorrow, the next film in the summer 2014 blockbuster line. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) successfully ties all of the elements of the film together. The plot is approachable, it’s surprisingly funny, and leads Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt have great chemistry on screen. Any romantic undertones are underplayed and the action is not gratuitous, which keeps the film focused on a very streamlined story. The result is an extremely entertaining and well-paced popcorn flick that may come out on top by the end of this summer.
The film follows William Cage (played by Cruise), a major in the army whose role is to promote the machinery created to reinforce humans against an invading alien race known as Mimics. The weapon suit basically transforms any individual into a metal fighting machine. In anticipation of a huge battle on French shorelines, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson, Harry Potter series) asks Cage, a man with no combat experience, to become the face of the fight for the public, and join the soldiers on the ground with a camera crew. When Cage refuses and tries to con his way out of the request, Brigham knocks him out and sends him to the Heathrow base under the guise that Cage is a deserter. Cage is immediately forced into the battle wearing a suit that he actually knows nothing about and with a team who think very little of him. The Mimics’ forces are stronger than anyone could have predicted and one by one, Cage’s squad is killed, leaving Cage to fend for himself. When he encounters a Mimic, he figures out a way to kill it, only to also be killed by the creature’s residual blood that burns Cage’s face.
Then, he wakes up. He goes through the entire day again. He dies. He wakes up again. And so it goes, for the rest of the movie. With every relived day, Cage makes his way further through the battle, eventually encountering Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada, The Five Year Engagement), a skilled combatant and poster-child for the war, who discovers Cage’s secret. Vrataski tells Cage to come find her when he wakes up, and when he does, he realizes that she is not only the key to determining what happened to him, but also to winning the war.
Those two conflicts are basically the lifelines of Edge of Tomorrow. They help to hone in plot and character development. The highly promoted #LiveDieRepeat aspect could have easily been overplayed and tiresome, but screenplay writers Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth control the flow of the plot firstly by maintaining suspense by making the audience realize that every progressive experience Cage has during the battle is not necessarily the first time he has had it, and by using well placed comedy to break up any threat of monotony. It’s interesting to watch Cage, with the assistance of Vrataski and having the benefit of repeatedly learning from the sequence of events, slowly become a better fighter and a more strategic thinker. Repeated scenarios never feel old because they are approached in a new way every single time, which is especially true of the invasion of the beach.
Some of the best action scenes take place during the invasion. It’s funny to consider them refreshing, as these alien creatures sneakily wind their way through the sands and blasting tanks and soldiers instead of having them wreck metropolitan cities. While the creatures themselves are not particularly memorable (they kind of look like knock off sentinels from The Matrix), their presence in more traditional warfare is a really engaging visual, more so than when they popped out in deserted areas and decrepit homes. There really is not much explained about the Mimics as a race or why they invaded Earth because it’s not relevant, which is yet another example of how Liman and the screenwriters keep the film on track.
Tom Cruise carries these sort of films well, and Edge of Tomorrow is no exception. His character starts off as a complete underdog who is honestly intimidated by the entire situation, which makes it easy to jump on board with his adventure over and over again. Although Cage certainly ascends to the hero throne after some time, it was great to have Emily Blunt’s character positioned as a superior combatant, someone who has a bit of an intellectual and skillful upper hand in comparison to Cage. It’s obvious that his character begins to care for her as he relives the day over and over again and discovers new things about her, but that emotion never affects Vrataski’s role or personality. This is probably because it is a one-sided experience occurring through Cage as he lives, dies, and repeats everything, unlike Vrataski. As the film progresses and Cage obtains more information about the war, Vrataski and his condition, we eventually find that he and Vrataski balance each other to create a partnership that is focused on taking any risks needed to win the war. It is easy to become invested in them, which is attributed to the natural chemistry between Blunt and Cruise. Hopefully Blunt’s experience with this film will encourage her to take on more action films as she continues to expand her range as an actress. She does bad-ass well.
Edge of Tomorrow is a smart, enjoyable film because it stays simple. The concept is nothing groundbreaking, but the simplicity and focused nature of the film keep it accessible. While it may not satisfy the deepest of sci-fi fans, it will certainly gain traction through word-of-mouth appeal, especially once people see how good Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise are together as slightly different characters than they have portrayed before.
I attended an early screening of the film last week. I won tickets through a Twitter giveaway by EB Games Canada.