As of late, Tom Cruise’s career has been treading water. Despite a fantastic cameo in Tropic Thunder and solid work in 2011’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, he hasn’t had a proper hit in about a decade. While he works consistently, the output quality has been average at best, usually at no fault of his own. Compared to his A list nemesis Brad Pitt, Cruise’s films have been pulling less than stellar reviews. Let’s just say the former star of A Few Good Men hasn’t pulled many cameos in Best Picture winners these days. Luckily, he’s still an excellent action star and after relative duds like Jack Reacher and Oblivion, Cruise has found himself a winner in Edge of Tomorrow. Smart, exciting and endlessly interesting, the summer’s latest time bending action adventure is the most completely satisfying picture released thus far. And yes, I’m aware I’ve already made that claim at least three times this year.
The world, once again, is at war with a race of aliens called the Mimics. After a five year engagement bringing humankind to the brink of extinction, humans are finally pushing back. The force behind the changing tide is mega-warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and while she may be the catalyst, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is the face the people see. Tasked with being the marketing arm of the military, Cage finds himself in a strange situation when he’s forced to put on armor and join the fray. Never having fired so much as a pistol in his entire career, Cage expectedly bites it within the first five minutes of combat. What’s unexpected is how he immediately wakes up exactly one day earlier. He gets to run the day over and every time he dies, he wakes up at the exact same point, in the exact same spot. As time wears on, and the day becomes repetitive, Cage seeks out the famous Vrataski for answers and discovers he’s not just a broken record. He’s mankind’s only hope.
Framed as mix between Groundhog Day and 2011’s Source Code, the story in Edge constantly teeters on the brink of ridiculousness. The setup in which Cruise gets sent to the front lines is suspect, Cage himself is fairly dislikeable and everything feels eerily familiar. Time jumping can turn hokey in the blink of an eye without careful writing. In the case of Edge, there’s nothing to fear as director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Swingers) perfectly executes the brilliant script with great pacing and smart cinematic choices. Unlike Source Code, which wore out its welcome by the 70th minute, Liman ensures everything stays fresh with the right mix of repetition and changes in the action.
That said, star power is usually the fuel for summer action and Tom Cruise returns to form as the golden boy turned reluctant army grunt. The setup of a coward being forced into bravery is a daring choice but thanks to Cruise’s infinite likability, it creates a rock solid foundation for him to grow as a character. Emily Blunt plays the woman warrior with grit, intensity and impressive physicality, a striking counterpoint to Cruise’s feeble early film fumbling. It’s refreshing to see a male play the “damsel in distress” role while a lady gets to be the bad ass.
But it wouldn’t be summer without a heavy dose of visual effects and the CG in Edge is the most engaging and arresting so far this year. Unlike Malecifent and Godzilla, the 3D work is spectacular, providing complete immersion in the on screen action. The aliens are designed like souped up Sentinels from The Matrix and, like their 1999 brethren, are a constant, creepy threat. The sound design is also fantastic with every ping, zap and boom resonating lifelike and in your face.
But like anything else, the devil is in the details and it’s the little things that make Edge of Tomorrow completely and totally satisfying. Unlike most action flicks, Liman allows the story to drive the arc of the characters, creating a world where they constantly have to adapt. Every time Cage dies, he has to meet everybody all over again and while this could have been as boring as the unlimited lives code in an old Nintendo game, a smart twist in the 30th minute maintains tension. As the reigning Sultan of Spoiler Free, I’ll keep the surprise a secret.
If you need to know more, that’s an easy fix. Go to the theater, plunk down $15 for the premier IMAX 3D showing and see it yourself. I beseech you. When the slate of summer flicks gets cemented in January, it’s hard to guess the winners. To be honest, if you had asked me on New Years if this was going to be any good, I would’ve probably said no. More noise and bombast for the wide release schedule. To my glee, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Expertly constructed with great leads and brain bending WTF ending, Edge of Tomorrow is yet another thumbs up in a surprisingly strong summer season. Tom Cruise fans can stop watching reruns of Risky Business and Top Gun. America’s biggest celebrity has another excellent adventure to add to the list.
Score: 9 out of 10
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Jersey born and New York bred, Bill Tucker is a writer of short fiction, film reviews and articles across a variety of genres and media. He currently writes a regular movie column entitled “Behind the Cinematic Curtain” for Revolt Daily, contributes to a fashion blog for http://www.pop-market.com and has a number of short stories in various stages of publication. When not writing, he works as an IT Trainer for a fashion software company. He currently hangs his hat in Austin, Texas. Check out more of his work at http://www.thesurrealityproject.com.