The Tom Cruise action character has become synonymous with saving the world, a macho attitude, and the ability going into to the fight to overpower and defeat his enemies. He has played most recently in movies like Jack Reacher, Oblivion, and the Mission Impossible series. So when the trailer were rolling for Edge of Tomorrow and Cruise was doing a voice-over where he says “Let me tell you a story and the longer I talk, the more it will all make sense,” I just couldn’t get out of my head the fact that once again Cruise was pushing this character down our throats.
But Edge of Tomorrow is a different animal, and Cruise with it. Instead of entering as this alpha male, we are acquainted with William Cage (Cruise) on multiple news stations smiling and putting his face all over this futuristic war that is ongoing. Cage is not like Jack Reacher or Ethan Hunt where the latter two could pick a fight and win, Cage is just a face to put on the campaign and has no real fighting experience. So when General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) asks Cage to show up on the frontline of their major attack to boost the morale of the people watching, Cage works his way out of it even going as far as to blackmail the general.
Cruise differs from his other characters here in his fighting ability but not in personality where he keeps the smugness of Ethan Hunt or Jack in Oblivion. Cage is beat up when he defies Brigham’s orders and wakes up in base camp where he meets Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton) who tells him he has been demoted to private and will be joining his team in the fight the following day.
Once the attack begins and the incompetent Cage hits the battlefield, he watches as soldiers beginning dying left and right. The mimics, or aliens that they are facing, begin picking them off even before the transport lands on the beach. Once with his team in a bunker, Cage watches as the mimics tear them apart before an alpha, the mimic leader, shows up and notices the cowering Cage and leaps at him. Thinking fast, he grabs a C4 and blows the thing up, but not before blue blood covers his face and Cage dies.
Or so he thinks.
Working in a concept similar to Groundhog Day, Cage is given the power to go back the previous day and re-live it, and whenever he is killed, it works as the re-set. During this process, he meets Rita (Emily Blunt), a super soldier who reveals that she carried the same gift before.
Blunt and Cruise share a great chemistry where the romantic aspect is not thrusted into the plot for the sake of story but rather feels organic and as if the character would develop some sort of deeper connection through working so much together. Director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth craft a story seeped in video game procedures that while borrowing from the logic of shooter games, never feels as if it were a game itself.
The movie always feels fresh and fun with a sense of heart that carries through Rita and Cage’s quest to find the end game for the mimics. While Cruise does have that tendency to fade into the same character in his action tentpoles, here he felt more human and more likeable than many of his recent characters. Cage had an actual, organic arc to him and he developed into a more Cruise-like character but went through a process that was deeper than any of his previous works. You can tell he is having fun and enjoying it also.
But Blunt steals the show as the ruthless, battered Sergeant and while we never dive deeply into her past other than a few anecdotes, you get enough of a sense for the character that it works well.
Edge of Tomorrow reminds me a lot of another Blunt film, Looper, in that it is a high concept film that works well away from that concept but will require multiple viewings to fully appreciate. It isn’t hard to figure out the time-travel aspect of this film but finding that understanding takes some time and I feel like if I go to see it again and understand the concept going in, I will find even more to like about this surprisingly layered film.
Unlike most summer tentpoles, Edge of Tomorrow pushes the limits and succeeds with a high concept script and action/mayhem that feels like being in a video game but doesn’t bog down like previous video game efforts. It is a film that will grow with each viewings and deserves some attention for being different than other blockbusters coming out.