It's a special thing when you go see a movie with little or no expectations, only to find it's actually good. There are plenty of reasons to think a movie might be bad, and the ad campaign for this one leaned far more to the generic for my tastes to be piqued. It's that kind of mentality going in that makes a good movie surprise you, and I was glad to find myself quite surprised here.
Based on the Japanese light novel hilariously and superiorly titled, “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the premise of “Edge of Tomorrow” is something akin to “Groundhog Day”, where the hero is forced to relive the same day over and over again. Unlike the 1993 comedy however, “Edge of Tomorrow" stars Tom Cruise. And in any Tom Cruise vehicle he needs to be running from something, so why not kill crazy aliens? Now we got a high concept action movie with a fun gimmick. It's a combination of various familiar elements, but handled in just the right way to make it fresh and stand on its own.
The setting is an alternate earth where humankind is on the verge of extinction at the hands of alien invaders called Mimics. These savage creatures are a strange and vicious collection of metallic tentacles that cartwheel across battlefields and do only one thing, kill humans. Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a military PR man whose job is essentially to sell the public on the war where people suit up in cumbersome and impractical battle suits. He’s a coward and his cowardice gets him into hot water with the general (Brendan Gleason, because it’s not a real war movie without him), who sends him off to die on the frontlines. Die he most certainly does, but in the process is coated in the blood of a special kind of Mimic, one that has the power to die and relive the entire day.
Thus begins his difficult task of ending a war that seems nigh unwinnable, but with the help of war hero Sergeant Rita Vrataksi aka the Full Metal Bitch (played by Emily Blunt), along with his special talent of reliving the day, he has all the time in the world.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is a surprisingly fun and solid action flick, taking a ridiculous concept and twisting it to suit the ends of an action war movie. It plays out like a self-referential videogame, allowing the hero to die and try again, having an infinite number of lives to get him further in the game, and eventually reaching the last level and the final boss. They play with this premise for the sake of humor and to push the insane stakes of the war. It’s handled well by director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”), who manages to streamline the “reliving” to suit the pace. Rather than show Cage re-experiencing just about every event of the given day, we know he already has when he addresses new situations to the audience as though he’s done it a hundred times.
The acting from the two leads is strong for the setting, Tom Cruise is as you’ve come to know him, but his star persona blends well for this type of movie. He’s a decent bet when it comes to action movies, and is a natural fit in the sci-fi setting. Emily Blunt is also very good as the tough and sympathetic Sgt. Rita, who like himself experienced the power of reliving earlier in the war. She’s believable in the action and it’s easy to buy her as a hardened soldier. It’s also fresh to see a female lead play the knowledgeable warrior to the hero, as opposed to having her hand held by a man teaching her to fight. Their relationship develops in the odd and strange way that it can (for him), but puts a lot of personal weight on the drama.
The action scenes are really fun and intense, especially when the stakes are shifted. For most of it, the heroes are tossed into a slaughter than they know cannot be won through traditional warfare. No one will listen to their crazy “I’ve lived this day before” rantings, so they’re on their own. Wading through a one-sided battle is not easy, and part of the movie follows them getting killed and learning for the next time. In some instances, this takes place in Cage’s brutal training sessions, where a nasty injury results in Rita putting a bullet in his brain so they can try again tomorrow. Morbid and very funny stuff. The action gets really intense towards the end however, when the limitless supply of lives runs out and they have to finish the mission on their own. No continues.
As a star vehicle for Tom Cruise and as a sci-fi action movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is very good and highly entertaining. It’s full of thrills and intense battles, but tightly written and well executed. It’s a great summer action flick and retains a quality of originality, something desperately lacking in most summer movies, where nearly everything is a sequel.