Get some Starship Troopers, mix it up with some Source Code, throw in some Groundhog Day-type mechanics, and you’ve got yourself a winning recipe for a familiar, yet very entertaining, sci-fi actioner. Based on the novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka titled All You Need Is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow manages to not only provide a great time at the movies, but offers the type of brains and brawn combination that is increasingly rare to find in cinema.
As is all-too-common in futuristic plots, we’re welcomed with a quick-edit montage that establishes the world of Edge of Tomorrow. Humans have been at war against horrific extra-terrestrials named Mimics for some time, winning some battles, but losing many. Tom Cruise stars as Cage, a suave military rep who knows how to smile for the cameras while attempting to place the military in the public’s good graces. He isn’t a fighting man, which becomes a major issue when Brendan Gleeson’s General Brigham orders him to hit the front line. When Cage refuses, he is arrested and knocked-out cold.
He wakes up at London Heathrow Airport, greeted by Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell, and finds out that he has been classified as a deserter. An inexperienced and befuddled Cage is thrown into battle, clumsily attempting to figure out the use of his “eco-suit.” His team is taken out, but he manages to kill a rare species of alien just before he meets his fate. He is drenched in this alien’s blood and dies…before waking up at Heathrow airport again. So begins Cage’s loop, a curse that could prove to be a blessing once he meets the army’s prized solider, Emily Blunt’s tough-as-nails Rita.
Sci-fi cinema is often filled with ideas that may sound ludicrous, but it’s about how convincingly these ideas are presented that determines whether or not an audience can suspend their disbelief. Therein lies Edge of Tomorrow’s ammunition, delivering a story that hooks you in and keeps you riveted as it flies along. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) keeps this ball slick and rolling, ensuring that it doesn’t slow down long enough for you to notice those rough edges.
A blockbuster that aims to bring in those crowds, Edge of Tomorrow has some aces that ensure you’re left impressed once the hand is played. This is a high-concept picture, with a reliance on plot that even dwarfs Tom Cruise’s superstar factor. Thankfully, screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth adapt Sakurazaka’s novel in a way that translates wonderfully onto the big screen. The story may be focused on Cage’s ongoing time-loop, but the screenplay puts forward enough plot twists and progressively ups the ante so that you never find the proceedings repetitive or dull.
The film is relentlessly plot-heavy, which doesn’t allow too much time for character development. Either way, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are both great. They bring charisma and humour to lighten the mood, yet convince in the dramatic turns that their characters undergo. Cruise, especially, puts in some fine work, reminding us that he’s as capable of landing those comic touches as he is in landing those highly physical sequences. Cruise and Blunt don’t have to reach too high in terms of their emotional wavelengths, but you’ll be grateful that it’s them when certain moments hit home.
Of course, this is ultimately a genre film, and fans of action-packed science fiction will have a field day. Those early war scenes are truly outstanding, as Liman’s camera excitingly depicts the claustrophobic combat taking place on land, while taking time to ensure those aerial wide-shots provide glimpses into the massive scope of these battles. Technically speaking, the film is awesome. The special effects and sound design bring the boom nicely, and Christophe Beck’s score nails it home.
The aliens themselves are well designed, moving so quickly with their octopus-type legs that you’re immediately on edge when the chase is on – which is often. It would have been great if these creatures were given more moments to ramp up their terrifying nature, as opposed to simply interacting with them in video game style action sequences. The film’s finale, involving some close-quarter battles in an underground setting, teases at some of the horror-stylings that could have worked wonders.
Apart from minor missed chances and slightly underdeveloped characters, the film’s overall concept means that you do have to accept some credibility stretches. Not often, but some moments don’t quite convince; considering how many people Cage has to convince in short bursts of time. A little more on the way one’s psychology is affected having to die repeatedly may have helped too. Nitpicking here, I know. These minor qualms are just that – minor.
A magnifying glass may not help, but this is quality entertainment. Edge of Tomorrow is a confidently directed sci-fi film with great visuals and decent performances, making it a cut above most of the big-screen blockbusters Hollywood has to offer.