By R. David
Viewed June 6, 2014
Live. Die. Repeat. That’s “Edge of Tomorrow’s” tagline, and the basic gist of its premise – a SCI-FI action variation on “Groundhog Day”. But while that conceit may sound narratively constricting and potentially tiresome, director Doug Liman and a small army of writers have found a way to milk their gimmick for its full potential. The result is a clever, fast-paced, and often very funny high-concept thriller.
Set in the near future and based on the Japanese novel “All You Need Is Kill”, “Edge of Tomorrow” stars Tom Cruise as William Cage, a smug, cowardly ARMY journalist who, after attempting to blackmail a superior officer, is busted down to Private and dumped into combat on the front lines of Northern Europe’s war with a sinister alien species known as “Mimics”. Cage is killed almost instantly. Spoiler, right? Nope. Cage has somehow contracted the ability to relive the day he dies. Every time he is killed, he wakes up in the same place he awoke that day and must relive those same events.
As I said, this is basically “Groundhog Day” with guns and aliens; but Liman and his writers get great mileage out of this construct, mining all the clever and funny potential possible from the film’s concept. Naturally, Cage is initially scared and bumbling – as confused as we are as to what’s happening to him. With each attempt at the day though, he learns and discovers a bit more about his situation and is able to stay alive a bit longer. Along the way he meets an infamous heroic soldier played by Emily Blunt who has her own theories about his powers and ideas about how he might use them to defeat the Mimics.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is at its most imaginative and entertaining in its first half. Watching Cage marvel at his situation and, eventually, exploit his newfound “ability”, is great fun. And Liman gets the action, pacing, and sense of humor just right. He handles the big SFX sequences admirably, but most memorable are his cutaway editing techniques and other visual cues that put an explanation point on Cage’s exploits. Cruise, for his part, is better here than he’s been in a long time; mainly because he seems to be relaxed and genuinely enjoying himself. He and Blunt have decent chemistry, and she finally gives a memorable post-“The Devil Wears Prada” performance.
Where “Edge of Tomorrow” stumbles (besides its bland title – though I suppose it’s a step up from “All You Need Is Kill”) is in its generic conflict and laden final act. Once the mission to destroy the Mimics takes over the story, “Edge of Tomorrow” becomes as derivative and tiresome as any assembly line genre exercise. Liman and his writers simply aren’t able to find a way to make the aliens or their motivations (and Cage and Cos’. attempts to foil them) as compelling as the film’s gimmick. Just once it would nice if an alien invasion flick paid as much attention to the logic and imagination of its plotting as its central gimmick.
3 Stars (Out of 4)