This particular critic has never been a particular fan of the actor Tom Cruise. As a point of preference, the only movies in his current filmography that personal biases allow some form of talent to eek its way through are A Few Good Men, Interview with the Vampire, Eyes Wide Shut and Collateral. No, this reviewer is not a fan of Risky Buisness, his performance in Jerry Maguire and the Mission Impossible franchise, and especially Top Gun, which personally, is one of the worst action films of all time.
However, this is not a diatribe on how lackluster and over-hyped Tom Cruise may be as an actor. This is a time when biases and preferences seemingly melted away, and of course this film is The Edge of Tomorrow. Not only does this film boast probably one of the best and most grounded performances of Cruise in his entire career, but it also does the same for actors like Jonas Armstrong and especially Bill Paxton (whose only really credible performance thus far has come from the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, where he was absolutely riveting). This was a film that was unexpected, original, entertaining, dramatic, everything needed for a cocktail of well-rounded filmmaking. The director Doug Liman is not a stranger to action filmmaking, being the hand behind the crafting of The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. With Liman's teaming up with The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie and Jez & John-Henry Butterworth (the writers of the upcoming James Brown biopic Get On Up), this movie had the creative force behind it to really give the movie something else. Not seeing any of the advertisements for this movie, also not having read the original manga this film was based on, walking into the screening blind to what the movie was (besides being a sci-fi film) was probably the best decision that a critic could have made. The film is taught, unsuspecting but simultaneously treats its audience with a respect to their intelligence and discernment. This is a film that wants you to find out what is going on as much as the characters do. This is sci-fi filmmaking of a prowess that hasn't broached the genre since District 9 and Inception.
Now is this film a game changer like Nolan or Blomkamp’s works? No. However, that isn’t what the film tries to be. Not only is this film highly entertaining, it achieves an empathetic connection between the audience and the characters considering the trials and tribulations of the story. The special effects by a group of talented individuals whose credits are the bulk of the people working on the film are surprising. Not necessarily that the effects are so awe-inspiring that the making of sci-fi films have changed forever, but more that the rest of the movie does not take a backseat to the effects like you would get in a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich film. The CGI and practical effects are woven seamlessly into the whole experience of the movie. With this approach, it not only is one of the best sci-fi experiences one could have at the theater this year, but also a movie with a high re-watch rate. And that is one of the more impressive aspects of any movie: that no matter how many times you may watch it, it is just as entertaining and engrossing as it was the first time. And with so many sci-fi films as of late being flashes in the pan (Divergent, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Riddick, Enders Game, Transcendence, The Hunger Games franchise, etc.), it is refreshing to see this prominent science fiction entry putting the emotional experience of the characters (and the audience) and the story on the same level of importance as the effects (see also Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It tells what it needs to, without telling too much, and it gives us what we expect at the same time still manages to surprise us.