Tom Cruise battles an alien invasion alongside Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow. Is this new sci-fi actioner a fun thrill ride or a disappointment? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his official review.
Directed By: Doug Liman Written By: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth; Based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka Runtime: 113 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
William Cage - Tom Cruise Rita Vrataski - Emily Blunt Farrel Bartolome - Bill Paxton General Brigham - Brendan Gleeson Dr. Carter - Noah Taylor Skinner - Jonas Armstrong Kimmel - Tony Way Griff - Kick Gurry Ford - Franz Drameh Nance - Charlotte Riley
Tom Cruise is back, yet again, to save the world; this time, from beastly techno-organic aliens, in the new sci-fi action picture Edge of Tomorrow. The film, based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, thrusts you into a setting where the world has been invaded by a race of alien creatures called the Mimics. By the start of the film, the Mimics have already taken France and most of Europe, and they are advancing toward England. Major William Cage (Cruise), a military propagandist, is encouraged by General Brigham (Gleeson) to go to the battlefront with a camera crew and sell the public on the invasion. Cage, with no true military background, refuses the offer. When General Brigham becomes adamant that Cage go, Cage attempts to blackmail Brigham. Brigham does not take kindly to the gesture and has Brigham arrested, labeled as a deserter, and dropped into the military outpost across the English Channel.
Master Sergeant Farell Bartolome (Paxton) does not believe Cage’s story and has the colorful, diverse troop known as J Squad put Cage in one of their advanced exo-suits, or for the sake of the film, tech-jackets, to ready for battle. The military’s forces are deployed to the beaches of France, but the only thing that awaits the military is a slaughter. With no training or knowledge of how to use the tech-jackets, Cage is nothing more than a sitting duck. However, on the field of battle he has a close encounter with a different, rarer type of Mimic, an Alpha type. Cage sets off a bomb, killing both himself and the Mimic. However, the Mimic’s blood leaks into his body, and Cage awakens to the previous day. Cage awakens at the same time he meets Sgt. Farell and is forced into J Squad. Over time, Cage continues to relive the same battle sequence over and over again. He has the memories of each previous occasion, but the Mimics are far too formidable to deal with. Eventually, Cage is able to survive long enough to get a hold of superstar soldier Rita Vrataski (Blunt), who became a symbol for promoting the war effort. Somehow, Rita is strangely aware of what is happening to Cage, and she requests he come find her after he wakes up.
This time, after Cage dies and reawakens, he finally gets ahold of Rita. Rita has actually experienced the same ailment as Cage did. Along with her scientist colleague, Dr. Carter (Taylor), they explain that Cage absorbed the blood of an Alpha Mimic. The Mimics actually have the power to literally control time; hence, why they are so quick and almost impossible pin down. They also know when human soldiers are about to arrive, so the strike in France is an inevitable failure. Rita and Carter want to use Cage’s connection with the Mimics to track down and destroy the Omega Mimic. The Omega Mimic controls all the others, and destroying it would likely turn the tide in the war. Eventually, Cage will have visions of the creature, and Rita will use the visions to track and find it. However, Rita no longer has the loop abilities, because all the Mimic blood bled out from her body. This causes loss of the power. How Rita knows this without actually dying is an absolute mystery. Rita has Cage start training with the tech-jacket. By way of repetition, Cage eventually becomes an expert and a competent soldier. Through all of his repeated life and death experiences on the battlefield, Cage is finally able to get himself and Rita off the beach and toward a dam in Germany to destroy the Omega. Cage is forced to watch Rita die dozens of times, though he does get to learn more about her. This draws Rita to Cage as well, despite her reluctance to develop emotional attachments. The Mimics are not easily defeated.
One might describe this story as something akin to Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day. Sadly, the story and the setup are incredibly contrived. Making Cruise’s Cage a cowardly, inexperienced PR spokesperson does provide the opportunity to show the growth of a competent swordsman by way of 100 swordfights. The problem is that the setup that forces Cage onto the battlefield does not make sense. Why would a general purposefully toss an incompetent and inexperienced soldier onto the battlefield, where he could likely get other experienced soldiers killed? Not only that, how would he expect to get away with his actions without repercussions? The movie asks you to go along with a bit too much in finally getting Cage into a tech-jacket. In addition, the abilities of the Mimics and the implications of controlling time really don’t come off very well. To the movie’s credit, that is generally an issue when time travel is used in movies.
All those things aside, Edge of Tomorrow is an enjoyable action movie. The movie is full of rather convenient and annoying plot devices. But if you can ignore them, the story and characters are a lot of fun. The movie really finds its footing in the process of Cruise’s training and his growth into a competent soldier. The film is almost like a subtle experiment in Darwinism. Over time, little by little, Cage evolves and becomes a true warrior. A better comparison: just as a master samurai swordsman, Cage becomes a better swordsman through experiencing a hundred swordfights. As the Mimics anticipate and understand human attacks, so does Cage with the Mimics. Cage, through every repeated death and resurrection, becomes a Mimic-killing expert, which is likely how Vrataski found success as a soldier.
Speaking of Vrataski, Blunt does excellent work here as the badass, all-business soldier. She’s a buffed out force of nature. Blunt certainly transformed herself for the role and creates a tremendous profile of a soldier who has seen far too much of a war, unlike anything ever experienced. Her interactions with Cage provide more character depth and show that underneath everything, she is a real person.
It is also very exciting to see mecha-type exosuits like the tech-jackets in a live-action movie. The tech-jackets look awesome and specifically come off like equipment that could come into being in the next 10-20 years. In the manga adaptation of the novel, the tech-jacket suits are far more advanced and probably would not have been as feasible for the actors to use. These tech-jackets are more stripped down and utilize the bare essentials for combat.
The J Squad provides a nice bit of comedic relief to the film, though a few of them could have been a bit more distinct. Bill Paxton is great as the Master Sergeant Bartolome, and he figures in far too little to the second half of the movie. However, Gleeson is plugged back in as part of a built-in fetch quest for the story.
Director Doug Liman does the best he can to deliver a farily straight-up, cool, slick sci-fi action adventure. Liman has always been an underrated director. He puts together exciting actions sequences. Even Jumper is a guilty pleasure of sorts. Like The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow has an inherent romance between the lead guy and girl, but the story does not beat you over the head with it. While the loop narrative device presents its own set of problems, Liman does manage to evoke a good deal of humor out of the scenario by showcasing Cage’s multiple failures in training. In addition, he achieves drama through the sobering defeats Cage experiences on the front lines. Intentional or not, the montage sequence contains some quiet introspective moments, where Cage is forced to watch Rita die over and over again. Cage, in his perpetual loop, is helpless to stop her multiple deaths. In some ways, Edge of Tomorrow plays like a retread of Oblivion. What Edge of Tomorrow lacks in coherency, it makes up for with pacing, energy, and impressive action.
The 411: The story is not its strongest point, but Edge of Tomorrow is still overall a satisfying and watchable sci-fi action experience. The film features good performances, good action, and some impressive visuals and ideas. The villains in the form of the Mimics could have been fleshed out more, and their designs were a little on the boring side. Still, if you like Emily Blunt and want to see her play a complete and utter badass, Edge of Tomorrow is your ticket.