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.