June 6, 2014 by Matt Spencer
In a summer where sequels, superheroes, remakes, and reboots are the norm, a sci-fi time warp movie based on a Japanese manga and starring Tom Cruise is the closest we get to having an “original” movie these days. And while Edge of Tomorrow is essentially based off a graphic novel, the basic premise of the story so intrigued me that after X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow was the next movie that I couldn’t wait to see this summer.
Caught in a mysterious time loop that restarts him the day before a crucial operation against alien invaders, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) through a chance encounter ends up reliving the operation over and over again. The more Cage relives the same day, the more knowledge he gains about the battle, the alien invaders that are seemingly unstoppable, and the power that is causing him to live, die, repeat.
If you’ve seen Groundhog Day, then you have a pretty good idea of how the movie is going to work. Just swap Bill Murray for Tom Cruise. At first we see Cage experience many of the same things over and over again: him awakening to a yelling drill sergeant, being made fun of by his squad, and his first moments in battle up until he dies. All of the repetition serves to not just show us what Cage is going through, but to make the audience experience it as well. After a while it does get a little tired, but thankfully once we get a good handle on how the time loop works, the film cuts back on the repetitions and shoots us to the same point in the next iteration–but with Cage doing or learning something different.
To break up the monotony of rehashing some of the same scenes, the screenplay does inject some pretty creative tricks like using humor to mix things up and keep the audience interested. In one particular sequence, Cage is trying to sneak away from his squad who are doing drills and at very precise moment he makes a very calculated move, but ends up getting killed in a rather unexpected way. Humorous moments like these where Cage uses his knowledge to improve, but ends up failing and starting over again inject much needed laughs right before a particular scene starts to get tired.
Another great convention that the film uses to break up repetition is when we are shown new scenes or versions of a timeline. Since it’s new to Cage, it’s new to the audience as well. However, the film flips this convention upside down later in the film, not just to deceive characters in the film as deception because he’s tired of always running into the same outcome, but to deceive the audience as well. With Cage the storyteller of the film, you always have to ask yourself if he is being a reliable narrator by determining if what we’re seeing is what he sees, or if it’s what he wants us to see.
What initially drew me to the film was the conceit of Cage reliving his day over and over, gaining more experience, and hopefully, to a positive outcome. With that in mind you would think that he could endlessly keep going through the day, exhausting every outcome until he can account for every action and reaction until he can claim victory. Needless to say while that would make for a pretty nice ending, there’s no real stakes involved with that scenario and thankfully the film sets up a limit to the time loop “power” that Cage has. With a countdown of sorts imposed on him, Cage (and the audience) comes to realize that he does have a limited time to figure out a way to capitalize on the power that he has, which brings a sense of urgency to Cage’s actions in the film.
Believe it or not, last time we saw Cruise was in a similar role in last year’s Oblivion. He’s again sort of playing the same role here of reluctant hero who literally stumbles into the situation he’s in. Maybe it’s because Cruise can play these types of roles so well or maybe it’s because this is how Tom Cruise really is in real life, but I was on board with what Cruise was selling. We’re not seeing a breakthrough performance or anything here, but the story is so tight and packed with action and humor that we don’t need to dwell on his motivations–it’s all up there on screen.
You’ve also got Emily Blunt as Rita, aka the Full Metal Bitch and highly decorated war hero, and Bill Paxton as Cage’s sergeant who tries to keep him in check. Both do a pretty serviceable job in their roles; Paxton provides comedic moments, while Blunt’s character not only teaches and guides Cage, but provides some emotional moments to the film as well. Again, on the whole, the entire acting corps in the film does a good enough job to keep us invested in the film.
As for the effects and 3D of the film, for the most part the effects were fairly solid with the 3D experience being passable at best. The only times you might be a little taken out of the film by the effects were in scenes where you get close-ups of the aliens (aka “mimics”). Sure they’re aliens, so they look different to begin with, but there are some shots where they just don’t blend seamlessly with the live action elements of the film. It’s not a huge deal though because the pace of the film is pretty brisk, so you don’t have time to think about it. As for the 3D, it hardly added anything to the moviegoing experience. I wouldn’t characterize it as bad, but I would say it was unnecessary. Save your money and see it in 2D.
Overall I was pretty entertained by Edge of Tomorrow. The film delivered on its time loop premise and mixed up the repetition in entertaining ways that kept me invested throughout the film. I’d actually like to pick up a copy of the Japanese manga that it’s based off (All You Need is Kill) just to see the differences between the two. In a summer loaded with familiar characters on screen, Edge of Tomorrow does provide a great break from all the familiarity and is definitely something you should check out. Edge of Tomorrow gets 4 out of 5 stars.