Length: 113 minutes
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Hiroshi Sakurazaka (novel)
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Tiny Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson
It could be argued that Tom Cruise isn’t well liked these days. While (as far as I’m aware) he hasn’t done anything particularly mental of late, his sofa stomping scientology antics didn’t endear him to many. Given that his last foray into the Sci-Fi genre in Oblivion was pretty poor, I didn’t have high hopes for Edge of Tomorrow. I had initially been very sceptical about it, but eventually my curiosity won out. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
It is impossible to talk about this film properly without going into the plot. You know the drill; there be spoilers ahead, you have been warned etc. The film is based on an interesting novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka entitled All You Need Is Kill (this was the original title for the film incidentally, but presumably was dubbed too awesome and had to be changed). The basic premise is that an asteroid lands in Europe and unleashes a hoard of nightmarish tentacle beasts called ‘mimics’ (for some reason) that begin to attack everything they encounter. The world’s militaries unite to repel this invasion and manage to sort of contain the threat in central Europe using soldiers in power-armour suits. Cruise plays a military officer named Cage who essentially does PR for the army and does everything he can to weasel his way out of combat. When he tries to blackmail a general, he is stripped of his rank and shipped out with the invasion force to Normandy. The attack is a disaster, but after killing one of the mimics Cage gains the power to ‘reset the day’; every time he dies, he returns to the same point and starts all over again. So it’s Groundhog Day with power-armour and aliens.
That may sound like a dismissive analogy, but it’s not intended to be. While it is definitely true, the core reset-button concept is a good one and it is used to brilliant effect here; it’s nice to see a film that is not afraid of its central idea and plays around with possibilities. What could have been an incredibly confusing narrative is expertly handled and the ever changing pace keeps the audience interested throughout. Unfortunately, this does not last for the entire runtime of the film; Cage loses his power towards the end and the climax of the movie is the traditional action ending that we should all be thoroughly bored with by now (more on that in a minute).
You can say what you like about him, but Tiny Tom is in his element here; this sort of thing is his bread and butter. The interesting thing about his character, though, is that he is initially playing against type; he’s not the bizarrely capable action hero or the average-Joe against adversity that we have come to expect him to play. At the beginning of the film he is a slimy state spin doctor and a total coward. This is an interesting role for Cruise, and gives him a chance to really show his character’s development as the film goes on; from cowardly novice to the seasoned professional soldier that he ends up being. Unfortunately, the aforementioned ‘action movie ending’ applies to his character as well and all the development that he shows is mostly squandered. Emily Blunt is excellent as the badass ‘Full Metal Bitch’ Rita, a war hero who also had the power to reset time but lost it. She acts as a mentor to Cruise’s character throughout the film and the two have good chemistry. Refreshingly, the (sadly) unavoidable romantic connection between the two main characters is very underplayed and subtle, which is good to see.
Aesthetically, the film is reminiscent of other Sci-Fi movies, including Starship Troopers and The Matrix with a touch of Elysium. The landing scene from Saving Private Ryan is also brought to mind during the invasion sequences (the closeness of the film’s release to the 70th anniversary of D-Day may not be a coincidence). The action is well shot and the effects are pretty excellent; I very much liked the design of the mimics, with their jagged movements juxtaposing their water-like forms. An element of the film that I love is the vaguely self-aware sense of humour it has throughout. A few moments in the movie are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, one of the highlights being Tom Cruise shrieking when he accidentally kills himself. The supporting cast is also excellent, especially those who play the squad that Cage embeds with, though none of them really get the chance to be developed fully.
There are a few things that don’t really work; the motivations of the aforementioned general (played by a bored looking Brendan Gleeson) are confusing, there are a few mistakes in the timeline(s) and the odd clunky line here and there but these are minor problems and don’t take away from the story at all. The real issue I have is with the last twenty minutes or so, especially the ending. Despite the interesting narrative, the character development and the impressive action sequences in the earlier acts, the climax of the film becomes a slog through a reasonably dull and by-the-numbers set piece. The worst part is the finale, which I won’t spoil. But I can tell you that it doesn’t make sense and is both extremely predictable and deeply unsatisfying. It feels lazy and rushed and does a massive disservice to the rest of the film. Having said this, there are very few ways that the film could have possibly ended given its premise, but it still feels like a cop-out.
Despite that, I do highly recommend this film; it’s fun and engrossing with a decent, well-executed plot, great action set pieces and a good sense of humour. Just be prepared to feel a bit disappointed when the credits roll.