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Edge Of Tomorrow

Good science-fiction ideas are scarce, and in big-budget Hollywood movies they’re often eclipsed by razzle-dazzle visual effects. That makes Edge of Tomorrow all the more enjoyable, as it has an intriguing premise and the ability to see it through to a satisfying conclusion.

The setting is (of course) the near-future, when earth is under siege from deadly, super-intelligent alien life forms. Our only hope is to mount a massive invasion, not unlike the D-Day landing at Normandy from World War Two. Tom Cruise is perfectly cast a slick Army P.R. officer who is shanghaied into active service on the eve of that campaign. He has no way of knowing that he’s about to re-live that hellish experience over and over again—or that he’ll find an ally in a “super-soldier” in a RoboCop-type suit of armor played by Emily Blunt.

Versatile director Doug Liman, whose credits include The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, understands how to use kinetic action for the greatest dramatic impact, and that skillset serves this movie well. Razor-sharp editing and complete command of visual effects guarantee that we never lose track of the story’s through-line or its emotional components. (When you’ve experienced something over and over again but your companion hasn’t, you both face a unique set of challenges and complications.)

I’ve heard this movie described as a cross between Ground Hog Day and Starship Troopers. That’s not inaccurate, but it’s a glib summary of a film made with exceptional skill and gusto. I don’t know if credited screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth simplified Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need is Kill, but I do know that the film works on its own terms.

Cruise effortlessly reasserts his movie-star charisma and action-hero credibility, while Blunt slips into an uncharacteristically physical role with aplomb. They are supported by a strong cast, led by Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton (who has made a smooth transition to character parts, here and in Million Dollar Arm), and the underrated Noah Taylor, who plays a wild-eyed scientist.
Dion Beebe’s cinematography, Oliver Scholl’s production design, Christophe Beck’s music, and visual effects supervisor Nick Davis all make superior contributions to the finished product.

Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t leave us with food for thought, as more profound science-fiction stories do, but I don’t think that was its aim. This is just good, solid summer-movie fare and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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