4 ½ stars
In a word: Dynamic
Let me preface this by saying I’m not at all overwhelmingly put off by the presence of Tom Cruise in a movie. Not even a little bit.
Edge of Tomorrow comes from Doug Liman, who has directed some fantastic films over his career in a wide range of genres, and also Jumper (the less said about that one, the better.) Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow is set in the near future following a devastating alien invasion by creatures Earth have come to call ‘Mimics’. Major William Cage (Cruise) is a public relations specialist. He’s all about selling the war against the invasion without ever actually getting his hands dirty – so naturally he gets sent to the frontline. Cage is knocked out and sent to Heathrow military base. He wakes up and is immediately found by Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton). Cage learns from Farrell that a backstory has been fabricated for him to ensure that he can’t leave the base. He learns that he has been demoted and labeled a deserter, and is sent with the rest of the military onto the beaches of France in a final, no-holds-barred assault against the Mimics.
Scared out of his wits, Cage arrives on the beach with the rest of the military to face such calamitous combat not even his worst fears could have prepared him for. So it’s a good thing he dies. Quickly. Movie over? Not a chance. Cage wakes up at Heathrow military base where he woke up the day prior to the assault. Let’s try this again, shall we?
EDGE OF TOMORROW’s time-loop conceit could’ve fallen victim to an abundance of pratfalls, leaving it far too repetitive or far too illogical to function. Luckily, EDGE OF TOMORROW, under Liman’s assured direction, swiftly dodges most of its potential narrative failures with the precision of a Mimic. Liman, along with a fantastic screenplay from Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth and Tom Cruise’s magnetic charisma ensure that the cycle of experiencing the same two days over is never tiresome. Balanced perfectly together are brilliantly timed humor, thrilling action sequences, and intimate human drama.
Emily Blunt turns in a wonderfully solid performance as the ‘Angel of Verdun’, Special Forces Sergeant Rita Vrataski. She’s a heroic icon, the face of the victory that Cage has spent a lot of time marketing and using to sell the war. Rita also becomes Cage’s only ally, mentor and confidante. The chemistry between Blunt and Cruise is palpable.
Speaking of Tom Cruise, the man is on fire here. It’s not Oscar-worthy by any means, but Cruise taps into various places on his acting spectrum to deliver a sharply contrasted performance that plays on his real-life egomania (you’ll struggle not to think ‘typical Tom Cruise’ in the film’s first scenes) before he is quickly brought down to hellish Earth and forced to find courage and strength he so obviously did not have before. Cage’s navigation of his surreal circumstances, his desperation and his growth through the film make for an enthralling watch. Cruise is an appealing leading man, and as an action hero he is usually mesmeric. It was great to see him earn his action-hero status rising through the film, but it was a fantastic move on possibly both his and Liman’s part that EDGE OF TOMORROW never became The Tom Cruise Action Show. Cruise is an undeniable presence for sure, but the film is driven by so much more than his finely tuned performance.
The script is dynamic, with enough wit and emotional weight to buoy the film above generic blockbuster territory. While it unfortunately doesn’t tap into deeper philosophical themes that it fleetingly hinted at throughout the film, it nonetheless turns the film into a much more enjoyable experience than Battle: Los Angeles. It’s great that despite the grim and foreboding setting and circumstances, the writers still remembered to inject appropriate moments of fun – however sardonic that humor may be. The repetition gags could’ve become stale, but they continually remain gruesomely (at times) crisp.
EDGE OF TOMORROW’s aesthetic design is something to behold. Appropriately gloomy, yet somehow never dull or depressing, the color scheme on display wonderfully evokes the cold and cruel world Earth is now in. It provides a fascinating window to look through. Dion Beebe provides some beautiful cinematography throughout the film, ensuring even through the raucous action and the subdued drama the film is consistently artful. The action-sequences are downright glorious and dazzlingly executed. The choreography of the action is also something that ensures the repeated combat sequences never get old, as there is always room for Cage or Rita to do something a little bit different – adding to the morbid fun amidst the despair.
From the mechanized suits to the Mimics, the science-fiction elements of EDGE OF TOMORROW are superb. The Mimics are unlike anything I’ve seen on screen before, and their physicality and movement feels totally unique.Not to spoil any further plot developments but the Mimics also have a number of biological traits and psychological features that elevate them above generic alien monsters in generic alien invasion movies. Physically, emotionally and intellectually, the design of the Mimics is outstanding.
With a little bit more time in its arsenal, EDGE OF TOMORROW could’ve been a strikingly deep film with profoundly nuanced commentary regarding its themes and ideas. However, as a Hollywood action/sci-fi blockbuster, it rises above the pack and is one of the most impressively efficient and vastly enjoyable movies of its kind in recent years.
EDGE OF TOMORROW was released in cinemas across Australia on June 5th, 2014.
REVIEWER: David Thomas Williams.