On paper, Edge of Tomorrow sounds mediocre at best, especially seeing as it apparently rehashes the premise for 2011’s Source Code, which I didn’t like very much. It also stars Tom Cruise, who I haven’t really liked in quite some time, yet something got me really interested in seeing his latest co-star with Emily Blunt, based on a soldier who becomes trapped in a glitch in time. I won’t spill the reason this glitch occurs because it’s a) it’s too complicated to type out, and b) you should find out for yourselves – I want you to see this movie!
It’s an undoubtedly interesting, if not fresh take on the sci-fi action genre, with a surprisingly great script to go along with it. The fact that we see William Cage (Cruise) living the same day over and over again doesn’t suggest that this movie is at all repetitive in itself – if anything, the closest it gets to being standard in any way is in its opening section. Cage is an officer in the United States military, but is relocated to Heathrow and demoted to the rank of private after he blackmails General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). From there, he’s dropped into France to battle these aliens that have invaded Earth, in a very D-Day-like situation of a failed surprise-attack and a reciprocating onslaught.
That’s when the movie springs to life. As Cage is drop-lined out of a helicopter, the camera follows him down in one unbroken, nauseatingly vertiginous shot. Completely new to front line combat, and unused to the required technology, Cage is the butt of jokes for other characters as well as the audience, until he gets into the battle, which is when our amusement turns to panic. This is the first instance where it becomes evident that Edge of Tomorrow is better than your average blockbuster when it comes to manipulating audience reactions, which it does with absolute ease consistently throughout the movie.
Part of this is due to the surprising chemistry that Cruise and Blunt pull off, with the former’s naivety and occasional stupidness providing excellent bait for Blunt’s troubled character to retort, usually, very sourly. When they’re not bickering like an old married couple, the two convincingly work together very well through bursts of determination, hope-against-hope, and tragedy, and it’s hard to imagine that I’d tire of watching them.
Edge of Tomorrow‘s most subtle and unexpected trick, however, is the way it presents mortality. That Cage restarts his day every time he dies gives him a more carefree attitude, allowing him to take more risks and to figure out different ways to approach certain problems. Once this is taken away from him, the film becomes sobering and incredibly tense which, along with the fact that it basically turns into a western towards the climax, makes for a massive pay-off. This is just the culmination of the film’s remarkably staged build-up, where it steadily increases the stakes almost unnoticeably through a barrage of miniature set-pieces and increasingly high-wire situations.
Edge of Tomorrow was directed by Doug Liman, written by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (based on All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka), and stars Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. It lasts for 113 minutes and is a production of Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment and Viz Productions. Distributed in the UK by Warner Bros.