‘Edge of Tomorrow’: A high point in Tom Cruise’s indestructible career
Somewhere some way somebody’s going to review “Edge of Tomorrow” without mentioning “Groundhog Day,” but as you just heard, it ain’t gonna be me. “Edge of Tomorrow” is a badass, sci-fi take on “Groundhog Day,” with Tom Cruise in the Bill Murray role as a self-centered and not particularly noble loner who finds himself starring in a continual loop in which he is condemned to repeat the same day over and over — which eventually leads to some life-changing revelations.
“Groundhog Day” is the most obvious influence on “Edge of Tomorrow,” but I saw glimmers of “Source Code,” “The Butterfly Effect,” “Total Recall,” “Starship Troopers” and even “Back to the Future.” That said, this movie has its own merits as an ingenious, wicked-smart and thrilling sci-fi adventure. This is one of my favorite movies of the year so far.
Once again the future doesn’t look good for mankind. (If all of the set-in-the-near-future movies from the last 10 years were mashed up into one giant film, we’d have about 50 movie stars battling about 300 different forms of aliens, mutants, zombies and robots. I’d watch that.) There’s not a whole lot of explanation of the screeching, spidery-octopi creatures known as Mimics storming through every continent, but that’s what they’re doing, and the forces of the world’s armies are no match for these hordes.
Tom Cruise is actually cast against type, at least for a while. His Major Bill Cage is a slick PR executive, appearing on TV to soothe the masses while he enjoys a relatively cushy life far from the front lines.
But then Brendan Gleeson’s Gen. Brigham wants to embed Cage on the front lines of the most important battle of the war. Cage refuses and is busted to private, and just like that he’s clunking around in a battle suit he doesn’t understand in a beach invasion that looks like an alien vs. man version of “Saving Private Ryan.”
Spoiler alert only if you haven’t seen the trailers or even the poster for “Edge of Tomorrow.” (And how about that nothing of a title? Leave it to Hollywood to take source material — the Japanese sci-fi novel with a title that translates to the awesome “All You Need Is Kill” — and change it to something so generic.) Cage gets lucky for a while, but he doesn’t survive that first day of combat — and that’s when we enter the Twilight Zone, because then Cage wakes up and it’s the previous day all over again. Having killed a rare Alpha Mimic, Cage won’t stay dead. He’s forced to relive events over and over again, which allows him to acquire some amazing combat skills and the ability to predict the exact sequence of events.
Emily Blunt is a jewel. Who doesn’t love Emily Blunt? She has an Audrey Hepburn-esque, rather delicate screen persona, so she seems a curious choice to play Special Forces legend Rita Vrataski, aka the Full Metal B----. However, Blunt is up to the task and then some. She infuses a fierce intelligence and a no-nonsense personality with just a touch of crazy — and even a little bit of heart, which Cage uncovers only after spending the same day with her about a hundred times.
There’s actually some pretty decent 3-D in “Edge of Tomorrow,” and some great cinematography. Director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) is adept at big-picture CGI battle sequences, but he also knows how to handle the obligatory scenes where the two main characters fix each other’s wounds during quiet time and the music goes soft while they learn a little something about one another.
Cruise gives one of the better performances of his career. He’s perfect as the glib PR man, and nearly 30 years after “Top Gun,” he’s still believable as an action hero. Bill Paxton is a hoot as the cheerfully maniacal master sergeant. Brendan Gleeson is perfect as the general.
Some of the stuff about the Alpha Mimic and the big-cheese super-duper Mimic, and the plans Cage and Rita hatch? Well, that stretches even the bounds of sci-fi hocus-pocus. And as is the case with any movie where the clock is reset, occasionally you’ll find yourself saying, “Why doesn’t he just do this?” or “Why can’t they do that?” But this is a smart screenplay with more answers than plot holes.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is the ultimate metaphor about Tom Cruise’s career. You can’t kill this guy. He’ll just keep coming. And he remains arguably the biggest movie star in the world for a reason. He brings it.