Director Doug Liman made his name with the fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat spy thriller The Bourne Identity. He brings the same kinetic thrills to the Tom Cruise sci-fi adventure flick Edge of Tomorrow – with the same enthralling results.
While Liman’s adroit action techniques G-forced the audience into their seats in The Bourne Identity, the film ultimately owed its powerful resonance to Matt Damon’s engaging character. Here, it’s Tom Cruise all the way, and he delivers in spades. Whether playing a good guy or a bad guy, Tom is an actor you never can look away from when he’s in full emote mode. In Edge of Tomorrow, he happily gets to play both guys.
The story is another tale of invading aliens hell-bent on destroying the human race, but this time not only did the aliens take flu shots ahead of time (thanks, Tom, for tipping them off in War of the Worlds), but they also prudently mastered time manipulation beforehand to make sure the game is rigged from the get-go. With their time-tweaking skills, the aliens can rewind history to replay a battle over and over until they finally win it, learning from their mistakes each time. Unfortunately for them, that ability can be accidentally transferred to a human if one happens to be in the right place at the right time and has latent hero genes awaiting a call to action. Fortunately for Earth, that chap with the latent genes is Tom Cruise.
Tom plays a cowardly major in a P.R. branch of the military. His heroic genes thus appropriately come as a major surprise to him after he is shanghaied to the front line by a punitive general (the always fantastic Brendan Gleeson). When Tom becomes accidentally embued with the “Mimic” aliens’ time-altering prowess, he is educated in its use by a previous beneficiary, Emily Blunt as a traumatized G.I. Jane war hero. Emily mercilessly schools Tom in the rudiments of combat and time manipulation until he is finally fit to meet the Mimics for the ultimate confrontation to decide the fate of Mankind. The disheartening realism of his previous combats make that final outcome a frightening uncertainty.
Tom’s transformation also exceeds expectations. His change from conniving coward to unflinching hero is one of the most remarkable and powerful screen performances in years. Even so, he transcends that arc with his depiction of a soulless man who learns to be human and truly love another – a love so strong it compels him to risk all even though he knows that if he succeeds, she will never remember his existence.
With the skill of a master comic, director Liman leavens the nonstop violence with a steady dose of realistic black humor and spot-on characterizations from the supporting cast. Most notable is Bill Paxton as a clueless Southern career sergeant and Charlotte Riley as a punch-drunk warrior proud of her Special Forces status but self-conscious that she is not quite there in more ways than one.
The crackling pace, skillful writing, welcome humor and, above all, the performances elevate this movie above its genre and earn it the status of a film classic.
Check out the award-nominated trailer at