Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
There is so much to like about Doug Liman‘s Edge of Tomorrow. An adaptation of the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need Is Kill, the film takes sci-fi elements from The Matrix, Aliens, Starship Troopers, manga and more, and wraps them all up in a rewarding time travel conceit right out of Groundhog Day. Next, it builds upon that construct in a way we’ve never seen, managing to entertain with humor, action and suspense. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt both bring a grounded, confident charisma to their roles. and Liman’s direction mixes the biggest scope imaginable with beautiful, quiet, intimate moments. The film is almost amazing.
However, a few small but distracting issues – mostly derived from the script by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth - hold the film back from reaching its full potential. Still, even with those problems, Edge of Tomorrow delivers on its promise of a memorable, exciting and emotional sci-fi action film.
In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise plays William Cage. He’s an untrained, talking head media relations officer who, through some pretty questionable storytelling, ends up on the front lines of Earth’s last stand against a seemingly indestructible alien race. However, Cage soon finds out that each time he dies in battle, he’s able (or forced) to relive that same last day. That’s the Groundhog Day connection. As in that film, Cruise and company play out the repetition to a very satisfying and varied effect.
Eventually, war hero Rita Vrataski (Blunt) is made aware of the situation and the two begin a repetitive cycle trying to figure out how to defeat the aliens. Those aliens are called Mimics; they’re a blend of the Sentinels from The Matrix and the critters from Critters, but with super fast, messy, erratic movement (think X2‘s Nightcrawler). And they have fish faces. They’re weird, but really scary and cool.
As Vrataski and Cage go through one day over and over again, each time getting a little bit further towards victory, Edge of Tomorrow purrs like a well-tuned machine. The laughs, the action, the performances, and the editing, are all on point. Goals are constantly provided, achieved, then expanded upon, giving the whole film a very satisfying forward momentum and pace. The script even has a few red herrings and other surprises.
(Minor, but necessary, spoilers begin.)
In particular, there’s an expositional thread explaining how the time travel works and why it’s so important. In this way, Edge of Tomorrow begins to both distinguish itself from other films, but also loses its way. Giving us an explanation of the time travel is a huge gamble. Normally, a film like Groundhog Day ignores the mechanics of the device, and therefore avoids the pitfalls of having to define a rationale behind the concept. The rationale in this movie works, and is frankly kind of brilliant, but it also starts to raise lots of other narrative questions. Plot holes are expected in a time travel movie, and Edge of Tomorrow does its very best to avoid them. But they exist, and are kind of glaring.
Noah Taylor’s character is one good example. He’s a conveniently-placed scientist who just so happens to know everything about the Mimics. Now what he knows and says is captivating and propels the movie, but it raises too many questions. The film offers fleeting explanations of his backstory, but they don’t quite cover all bases.
Then there’s the ending. I won’t give any specifics but after the film dials up the stakes going into the final act, and delivers upon those stakes with a certain gusto, the ending is a confusing oddity. It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the movie. I can totally understand why Liman ends the story in the way he did, but the movie is so good before that point, it deserved something less conventional.
Edge of Tomorrow is a Gold Medal performance that stumbles on landing and gets the Silver. A valiant effort that’s well worth your time, but it ever so slightly, and disappointingly, misses top level status.
/Film rating: 8 out of 10
Edge of Tomorrow opens in the U.S. June 6.