Synopsis: An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.
When I saw Edge of Tomorrow at an 8 o’clock showing on a Friday night I accounted for 10% of the audience. Which based on some of the reports coming out of the internet during the last week or so is somewhat of a packed house for a movie which is inexplicably doing terrible box office money despite two bankable stars in Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, strong critical reviews (90% from 172 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) and a premise which should appeal to a fairly broad demographic.
Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need Is Kill (which if I had a criticism off the bat it is that they should have kept the name of the book) Edge of Tomorrow opens with a montage of news reports detailing a devestating alien invasion and ensuing Western Front style battle which has pushed to the beaches of Normandy. Representing the US Military in a bid to “sell” the war as a means of inspiring massive numbers of conscriptees is Maj William Cage (Cruise), a PR guru who in the midst of worldwide battle for humanity found a way of using his skills to stay as far away from the front line as possible. His primary tool for selling the glamours of battle? Joan of Arc-esque, Full Metal Bitch, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). An English Rose with a massive sword and a natural talent for smighting enemies. Things don’t quite go to plan though when the most senior officer in the European Alliance , General Brigham (Brendon Gleeson) has Cage sent to the font line for desertion after he refuses to be embeded with the massive air drop taking place the next day on the beaches of Northern France; a plan seen as the best chance of keeping the alien invaders from breaching the Channel and taking Britan.
Having never seen a day of battle in his life Cage is a bumbling mess of cowardess and fear when he is eventually landed in the midst of a clear ambush that is nothing short of outright carnage. When that moment comes it is a scene that rivals Saving Private Ryan for sheer scale and spectacle as Liman creates a sesne of absolute panic, disorder and desparation as helicopters fall around Cage, all while he tries to work out how to fire the guns on his huge exo-skeletal weapons suit. After a knee jerk moment leaves Cage with a rather nasty lack-of-face type injury he finds himself reawakened the day before, seemingly destined to relive the horror. It quickly becomes apparant that something has left Cage with the ability to relive the day everytime he dies. At first something he considers a cruel punishment, but soon something he realises could be the key to learning the enemy’s playbook and humanity’s last chance at winning the war.
It’s not often that a director gets the opportunity to kill his leading man tens of times in the same movie and Liman relishes it, injecting reams of black humour as Cruise gets dispatched in both heroic (trying to save a fellow soldier from a plummeting helicopter) and less heroic ways (at the mercy of several different vehicles). Liman also gets a performance out of Cruise that his career has been lacking in recent years, delivering against his hero persona for the first time since Tropic Thunder. Liman also wisely never over plays the love interest between Cruise and Blunt, rather letting it play out naturally as Cage realises that while he spent countless days with Rita, she has never known him for more than 24 hours. By doing so he places Edge of Tomorrow somewhere directly between Source Code and Starship Troopers. Never a bad place to be.
If Edge of Tomorrow has a failing it is in the difficult third act where the dark humour and effortless interaction between Cruise and Blunt is sacrifised for a Transformers style mass destruction set piece in which Cruise becomes seemingly invinsible (ironically). This is a minor criticism though for a film that spends so much of it’s running time having enourmous amounts of fun at the expense of so many sci-fi action movies as Cruise dies innumerable times just trying some basic things that other heroes would never falter trying, like crossing a busy road on first attempt.
It’s just a shame that so many people, for whatever reason, are staying away from Edge of Tomorrow and as a result it is likely to be seen as a flop, which is an unjustified position for such a smart and funny action movie. Particularly when you consider the kind of box office that the coma inducingly dull looking Transformers 4 will do when it is released next month. I just hope that it gains a cult following on home release and gets the financial return it deserves.
Conclusion: Smart, funny, dark and enourmously entertaining. Just a shame no one is going to see it.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson