Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor
Directed by: Doug Liman
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material
There’s a situation almost anybody who plays enough video games has experienced, where you have to keep doing the same thing over and over, trying new ways to survive a difficult level and failing. “Edge of Tomorrow” plays off this, mashing up the classic sci-fi alien invasion trope with a “Groundhog Day” style of an eternally looping day.
Future-soldier Cage (Tom Cruise) dies not long after hitting the beach in a massive attempt to end an overwhelming alien invasion once and for all – and then wakes up the day before and has to do it all over again. Eventually he knows the day like some of us know levels in “Super Mario Bros”: run this far, jump, go up, go down, etc. Once he finds someone else who’s had the same experience (Emily Blunt’s Rita), he’s able to take a little more control and start using the repetition to his advantage.
When the film is focusing on Cage’s experiences trying to survive the invasion, it succeeds admirably. The camaraderie between the soldiers, the futuristic weaponry, the creepy aliens (who somehow manage to seem both mechanical and organic), the black humor of dying over and over and over again, all of these are engaging, exciting, and often very funny.
Where the film starts to fall apart is in its explanation of what’s happening to Cage, how it works, and what can be done to end the invasion permanently. More frustratingly, what should have been a poignant and powerful ending winds up being obliterated by a deus ex machine and turned into something else entirelys.
There’s a lot to like along the way, however. Blunt’s performance is a joy – her Rita is an utterly fearless and enormously talented soldier who fights the aliens with both firepower and a sort of futuristic massive sword. Her no-nonsense, utterly unsympathetic attitude toward Cage is a source for much of the dark humor in the film, and it’s wonderful to see a female character who’s both a warrior and a human being. Cruise is in fine form himself, his comic timing and action-hero acumen making Cage someone we can root for even when he’s being a jerk or a coward.
The special effects are impressive, and look to be a well-crafted mix of computer-generated and physical effects. The armed exoskeletons the soldiers wear in “Edge of Tomorrow” are everything “Starship Troopers” was lacking, giving them super speed and strength, and enabling them to survive enormous falls while launching everything from bullets to missiles. The aliens are unearthly and creepy, blending creepy tentacle visuals with creepy robot visuals.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is a solid summer action flick, a fun ride to enjoy while beating the heat and munching popcorn. Its failings are annoying but not necessarily movie-ruining as long as you enter the film with a willingness not to ask too many questions about the mechanics of the time looping. If you’re looking for escapism and aren’t expecting hard science fiction, you’ll be set. Fans of detailed, carefully-crafted hard sci-fi who can’t set that aside should pick something else