REVIEW: EDGE OF TOMORROW / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: DOUG LIMAN / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE, JEZ BUTTERWORTH, JOHN-HENRY BUTTERWORTH, HIROSHI SAKURAZAKA / STARRING: TOM CRUISE, EMILY BLUNT, BRENDAN GLEESON, BILL PAXTON, TONY WAY / RELEASE DATE: MAY 30TH
Despite the storytelling and editing possibilities inherent in the concept of "Groundhog Day meets Independence day", Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow starts traditionally enough with news footage of the arrival of the alien Mimics on Earth and humanity's response, featuring Cruise's photogenic Major Cage drumming up support for Brendan Gleeson's United Defence Force.
After a disagreement over keeping his neck safely away from the front line, Cage is summarily demoted and dispatched to the front lines as part of a D-Day style landing in Mimic-occupied France, a battle he is woefully unprepared and untrained for, not even knowing how to disable the safety on his high tech "jacket" power suit/weapons platform – a battle that results in both humanity's defeat and his death. And then... he wakes up. Cage starts the day again. Then he dies again. Then he "resets" yet again. Thanks to an encounter with a particular type of Mimic, Cage has discovered the secret to their overwhelming victories: a form of time travel.
Like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, Cage makes some attempts at improving his lot and himself, trying to soften his initial awkward introduction to his squad mates and later struggling to save some of them in battle, but it's only with the introduction of Emily Blunt's Rita, the "Angel of Verdun", who shared a similar experience to Cage, that he finds a purpose to go with his power, and his mission begins. All he has to do is ensure that he dies when he needs to reset; getting injured is not enough and could strip him of this gift.
While there's no Sonny and Cher announcing the start of each "reset", Liman sensibly uses some of the tricks of Groundhog Day, adding in humorous and unexpected deaths for Cage. He also hides some iterations from the audience, introducing new scenes and situations only to reveal that Cage has experienced them multiple times already.
Despite a simple mission introduced in the second act, the film manages to keep things fresh, moving Cage's replays from the battle on the beach, to his training, to a MacGuffin hunt later in the film, and even then the film manages to come up with some surprises. Any perceived lack of jeopardy due to Cage's ability to retry things over and over again is tempered by Cruise's performance as well as the diminishing of that power for the film's climax, adding some much-needed suspense. This is however undermined when a slightly predictable ending arrives, even if it is handled with good humour.
For those hoping for a bit more science fiction in their summer blockbusters, this is more of a war movie with sci-fi trappings. The enemy, the power suits and the time travel element all fit the mould nicely, but the sci-fi doesn't really have too much to say apart from "be better". The design of the alien Mimics is interesting enough, whirling dervishes of metal tentacles, spinning around a perpetually agape maw, and the power suits look pretty cool but aren't really that central to the plot. They're mostly just used as mobile weapon platforms and once the third act rolls around the cast seem to use every opportunity to step out of them.
Performances are solid all round, Cruise going from confused to badass as required; Blunt is mostly an unapproachable single-minded warrior, sometimes comically so, only softening towards the end. Bill Paxton also stands out as a continually irate Sergeant Major.
Edge of Tomorrow is a diverting enough, enjoyable, Tom Cruise war movie, but perhaps one that won't linger in the mind too long after the final credits have rolled.
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10