Over the years, Tom Cruise has turned into a love-him-or-hate-him figure (for some reason) in the general public’s eye. To me, he’s one of the best when it comes to understanding that one of the most necessary traits of an actor, that others don’t get, is showmanship. He puts an absurd amount of effort into every single role he gets, and his decision to do his own stunts at his age is nothing short of insane. I think it’s just the media’s attention to his private life that prevents people from getting into any of his performances. However, that has never dissuaded me from enjoying his consistently great performances, though the qualities of the films themselves are certainly questionable. Though his ventures into sci-fi have always been great, and now he has a new one called Edge of Tomorrow. The film is based on a Japanese novel called All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, which is what the film was initially called before it was changed (why they changed it to the most generic title possible, I have no idea since All You Need is Kill is an amazing title). The film is directed by Doug Liman and written Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Christopher McQuarrie based on a spec script by Dante Harper.
In the not-too-distant future, mysterious and powerful races of aliens called “Mimics” invaded Earth, and have conquered most of Western Europe. In the middle of this, we follow Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), who deals with public relations and marketing than actual combat. However, he is ordered to the front lines of an assault on the coast of France. He tries to get out of it, but is eventually forced into battle by Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome (Bill Paxton). Of course, with his lack of experience-spoiler alert-he dies. Something interesting happens though, Cage wakes up. He finds himself back to his arrival at the military base, so he attempts at finding out what the deal is and what he can do about it with the help of a Special Forces officer, whose incredible feats in the war is used as a symbol for the war effort, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt).
Being one of the few people who were genuinely looking forward to this film, I am glad to say that Edge of Tomorrow not only met expectations, it exceeded them through and through. The things that might pop into your mind are films like Groundhog Day, Source Code, Aliens, and Starship Troopers, just to name a few. And thought the film’s aesthetics and storytelling elements do borrow some from these films, Edge of Tomorrow is executed in a way that feels very refreshing and unlike anything I’ve experienced from any recent blockbuster.
I might as well start with the star of the film, Tom Cruise. In short, he kills it. In fact, if any skeptics need to be reminded of just how well of an action lead Tom Cruise, this film is a great one. In an interesting turn, we first see Tom Cruise’s character as a cowardly and scared person, who has no desire to be in battle and will do anything to get out of it. And though his character may seem a bit uptight and borderline unlikable at first, we are quickly on his side as we see him deal with the fact that he is essentially walking into a deathtrap. From there, the film brilliantly uses the time-loop to develop his character to a badass, who is still vulnerable and interesting. Cruise portrays the character with ease, and he makes the ride that much more fun to watch. Emily Blunt is excellent as Rita, or if you want to refer to her as her character’s nickname “Full Metal Bitch.” She does a fantastic job at creating a believable soldier; she holds her own extremely well during action sequences and she works tremendously well with Tom Cruise. After The Adjustment Bureau, Looper and now this, she is shaping up to become this generation’s Sigourney Weaver, as in being Hollywood’s go-to woman for genre films, and that is awesome. The supporting characters are very well cast. Brendan Gleeson plays the General who sends Cage to the military base, and he does a fine job. Bill Paxton certainly chews the scenery, but he is such a delight to watch, and it’s probably wouldn’t be surprising if he was cast due to his role as Hudson in Aliens. The other supporting cast members are also well acted. They don’t have much screen time, so they aren’t that developed, but they do make quite an impression and are likable.
The screenplay is handled with a surprising amount of wit and humor amongst the action heavy story. It takes the multiple deaths of Cage and has fun with it in a darkly comedic sort of way. There are some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments in the film. As I mentioned before, the supporting characters are not given much screen time that is because the writers made a wise decision to prioritizing the focus of the film on developing the relationship between Cage and Rita. Before you roll your eyes, the film refreshingly keeps the romance at a minimum. In fact, it’s barely there. It mostly follows Cage, whose affection for Rita slowly grows over time in a believable way, but since each day resets when he dies, Rita has to get to know him all over again. But without giving away too much, the film focuses strictly on the mission of the two characters, and leaving the possible romance for later, and as a result, the script feels very lean and tightly put together. It also makes great use of the concept, taking as much advantage as it reasonably can within the boundaries of the desired narrative. It brings in a variety of locations and situations so the film does not feel repetitive.
Doug Liman impresses with his direction. Visually, he makes a great use of wide shots during the battle scenes and some well-done handheld work among the soldiers, making the experience that much more immersive, which is very reminiscent of the D-Day opening in Saving Private Ryan. But he also does well at keeping the camera steady and on the actors during the more emotional and personal scenes. He and editor, James Herbert, did a great job with the brisk and careful pacing of the film. The film practically flies by, but it will slow down to have its character moments, but just when you think it might be slowing down a bit much, it speeds right back up, keeping the film at a steady momentum. The production team has done a fantastic job creating a full realized world where a war between aliens and humanity is taking place. The battle exoskeleton suits are realistically designed, but still look like a lot of fun. The fact that the actors are wearing real suits on set adds a lot to help the film that much more immersive. The alien designs are unique and interesting; I liked that we rarely got a good, long look at them, since they moved very quickly and killed those around them easily, this makes them very threatening. Speaking of which, the effects are fantastic, with incredible CGI seamlessly integrated with the practical sets. Of course, adding to the realism is the incredible stunt work, Tom Cruise, especially, delivers one of his most physical performances to date and he sells it with great enthusiasm.
I’m being completely honest, but I have very little to complain about with this film. There are some nitpicks, of course, but nothing big enough to detract from the overall experience. I will say that I did know beforehand that the film started production without an ending that satisfied the filmmakers. And frankly, you can kind of tell that the ending is a bit last minute, and I can see some people seeing the ending as a copout of sorts, but in all honesty, I thought the ending worked. It was the kind of ending that a film of this type and tone would need, and the way it finally finishes made the film feel so satisfying. So, I ultimately didn’t have a problem with the ending, but I can see why others might. Also, I didn’t like the use of Love Me Again by John Newman as the end credits song. It’s not a bad song by any means, and the lyrics do kind of work in context, but the song itself didn’t really fit in my opinion. Hey, if that’s my biggest complaint about the film, that should tell you just how great the film is. Also, I haven’t read the book, but if I were to assume how faithful the adaptation is, I would guess that a lot has been changed. If you’re a fan of the book, don’t let that discourage you, since the film stands on its own very well.
Although it’s laughably early to say this, I truly think that in five to ten years’ time, Edge of Tomorrow will be considered a classic of its genre, mentioned in the same breath as films like Aliens or Terminator 2. This is easily one of the best blockbusters, not just of the sci-fi action variety, in recent memory. It’s full of fun and interesting characters with great character development, the action is thrilling and intense, the humor is clever and quick-witted, Christophe Beck’s score is solid and the effects are impressive. For a film that is supposed to be repetitive by nature, it never feels tedious, instead it expertly ups the stakes and makes the film that much more compelling thanks to outstanding performances, a smartly written script and impeccable direction. If you like Tom Cruise, see this film, if you like sci-fi and/or action, see this film, hell, if you just want an old fashioned blockbuster that isn’t a part of a giant franchise, then I highly, highly recommend seeing Edge of Tomorrow.
Side Note: Doug Liman has recently signed on to direct his next big feature, Splinter Cell, the film adaptation of the popular videogame series, which will star Tom Hardy as the main protagonist, Sam Fisher. The film is still in pre-production, but is tracking for a 2015 release. Speaking of which, Doug Liman has had an impressively diverse career from low budget comedies like Swingers and Go in his early years to directing the first in the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Identity and now getting into big budget sci-fi. He’s more than proven his skills behind the camera, so it’ll be curious to see how he handles Splinter Cell.