Edge of Tomorrow is about as high-concept as they come. In the future, humanity battles an alien race known as Mimics. Reluctant soldier Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), through various means, finds himself front-and-center in a major assault on the aliens. Amidst a battle that is going horribly wrong, Cage is killed by a Mimic, but as this occurs, the creature’s blood mixes with his own.
Cage then wakes up, basically one day prior to the battle as if everything around him is happening again as if for the first time.
The simple description of Edge of Tomorrow as Groundhog Day with big guns and aliens is apt. It’s also not innately a bad thing.
Based on Hiroshi Zakurazaka’s “All You Need Is Kill,” Edge of Tomorrow is a slickly paced action romp, which intelligently, almost elegantly unleashes its premise in a chaotic war of worlds. Director Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) and his creative team take little time establishing the world. Outside of a collection of news segments that give us some sense of the scale, we enter the fray via Cruise’s Cage, a one-time seller of the military strategy forced into battle against his will. Liman and company has their inhabitants on the beaches quickly, donning mini-mech-suits and duking it out with an enemy we know nothing about other than the fact they are lethal.
This immediacy has a gripping intensity. For all of the info-dumping that occurs later in the film, unravelling the finer details of the Mimics, the fact that Cage is a soldier caught in a time-loop of death flows out naturally. It's finely pitched how Cage comes to deal with his surroundings and those he knows life-stories about who only view him as a complete stranger. As Cage works his way around his situation, seeing how the Mimics work, which fellow soldiers are bullheaded, what traps lie ahead, the audience is never quite sure which outing this is for Cage. Has he made it this far in his quest before? Is he playing with other people’s emotions to enhance a necessary agenda?
Cruise is good here, doing nothing we haven’t seen from him before. Again, that is not innately a bad thing. This is movie-star Cruise breaking out that big grin when he succeeds and shouting that Cruise shout when things fall apart. He has a natural chemistry with Emily Blunt, who plays Rita, a female soldier who is feared, respected and mocked by others. She also has an understanding of what’s happening to Cruise’s character, stating at the end of one failed cycle that Cage needs to find her when he wakes up.
Liman achieves a scope in his action scenes that I believe the kids like to call epic. The computer effects rather seamlessly mesh with the practical ones as men and aliens fall alike. Neither side seem particularly impervious, amping up the tension. Even as Cage is reborn again and again, this isn’t a society where weapons never malfunction, clips never empty and bad guys never hit their mark.
Small missteps are made. The Mimics are a rather bland design, an unappealing rehash of the Sentinels from The Matrix, with dread-like metal tentacles flopping around, only now with faces. Additionally, while the story may not have been as nimble if it were to go into how Cage emotionally transformed from coward to man of action, the set-up of his character as the former requires at least some payoff.
Those missteps linger a tad, even if they are largely washed to the side by an energetic narrative and blistering action which has a vibrancy and oomph lacking in many Hollywood blockbusters.
Edge of Tomorrow opens wide all across Seattle Friday.