Based on the 2004 Japanese novella All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow is a military science fiction film starring the always reliable (and apparently ageless) Tom Cruise. Cruise plays William Cage, a US military officer primarily in charge of media relations. At the start of the film, humanity has lost most of Europe to an alien menace known as the Mimics – terrifying, multi-limbed creatures that seem to know every move humanity is going to make before they make them. After refusing to accompany (and film) a squad of soldiers on humanity’s last-ditch, all-out offensive against the Mimics, Cage is arrested, stripped of his rank, and sent to a military base at London’s Heathrow airport. After a brief introduction to his new squad, Cage and company are deployed on the coast of France. After a disastrous beach landing that plays out like the futuristic version of Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach sequence, Cage lasts all of five minutes before being killed by an Alpha – a larger, stronger breed of Mimics. Though Cage dies, he takes the Alpha with him. Their blood mingles in his final moments and then he wakes up, back at the military where he was sent. It’s the day before the invasion and Cage finds himself experiencing the same events once again. After dying on the beach a few more times, Cage takes his problem to Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, also known as the Full Metal Bitch, which may be one of my favorite nicknames ever for a character. Rita is a war hero who managed to single-handedly kill hundreds of Mimics in humanity’s last successful operation at Verdun. Rita, surprisingly, believes that Cage is reliving the same day over and over because she once had such a power herself after an Alpha Mimic’s blood mixed with her own. Through her, Cage learns that the Mimics’ controlling hive-mind – called the Omega – has time-altering powers, explaining why no matter what humanity does, they cannot overcome their alien opponents. The Omega simply resets the day when the Mimics lose and plans accordingly. Unfortunately for Cage, to activate his resetting powers, he must die. Saddled with what may be humanity’s only chance against the Mimics, Cage, with the help of Rita, must find the Omega and destroy it to end the Mimic threat once and for all.
Though one may think the repetition mechanic upon which the story depends may come off as gimmicky – and it may very well have in less talented hands – Edge of Tomorrow succeeds on every level. It’s a slick military actioner that’s well-acted, well-paced, and stylistically distinct. Tom Cruise gives an entertaining performance that allows him to play both the weakling and the hero; Cage begins the story as a coward and ends it as a combat veteran, hardened from daily fighting. Cruise’s affable, everyman likability makes Cage a hero to root for despite his initial selfishness and Cruise’s comedic timing remains as consistent as ever. Emily Blunt, whose work I’ve always enjoyed, brings a nuanced hardness to Rita Vrataski, succeeding in making her tough while still retaining a realistic sense of guarded vulnerability. She and Cruise share the lead rather than it being a one-man show and their chemistry as nonromantic companions is one of the best parts of the film, with much of the humor being derived from Rita’s merciless training of Cage, which usually ends with her shooting him in the face. Building on that, I must comment on how genuinely funny the film is. Its humor is derived directly from its clever script, with Cage’s future knowledge serving as the basis for many chuckle-worthy moments. Kudos must go to Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) and his writing companions Jez and John-Henry Butterworth for just how well it turned out.
The direction by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper) is stylistically pleasing and well-executed. Liman avoids the confusion that plagues so many modern action movies by allowing the camera to pull back, letting the audience observe the grandeur of the violence and destruction at hand. Liman’s direction, coupled with fantastic special and practical effects, make Edge of Tomorrow one of the best looking films of the year so far. Though bulky compared to other exoskeletons, the suits used by Cruise and Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow look as if they could exist in the near future and the stunt work accomplished with them is some spectacular stuff that left me wishing for that Warhammer movie that I’m still waiting on. On the CG side, the design for the Mimics is terrifying, strange, and surprisingly new in this day and age of alien design. By no means bipedal, their jerky, frantic movements and surprising speed make them adversaries that are truly frightening.
Overall, I really enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow. It’s always nice to see an intelligent, big budget science fiction film that’s not part of an established franchise. The pure escapism of some good sci-fi is something that’s hard to beat. So if you have had your fill of crying during The Fault in Our Stars and want to see Tom Cruise run at a full sprint yet again, go see this movie and enjoy the ride.