THE STORY – When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Maj. William Cage (Tom Cruise), an officer who has never seen combat, is assigned to a suicide mission. Killed within moments, Cage finds himself thrown into a time loop, in which he relives the same brutal fight — and his death — over and over again. However, Cage’s fighting skills improve with each encore, bringing him and a comrade (Emily Blunt) ever closer to defeating the aliens.
THE CAST – Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton & Brendan Gleeson
THE TEAM – Doug Liman (Director), Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 113 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
We begin with distorted news footage coming in over the credits of Doug Liman’s film “Edge Of Tomorrow.” The world has been thrown into chaos by an alien invasion. With the final stand taking place in Germany on the beaches of Normandy, similar to what the Allied forces went through decades earlier during World War II, it is clear that despite its sci-fi premise, Liman along with his screenwriters (Including “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” director/writer Christopher McQuarrie) are interested in presenting to us a war film but with many twists.
The first twist is that the hero starts off, not as a badass warrior, but as a coward and a liar who will put hundreds of thousands of lives before his own. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a PR man for the UDF (United Defense Force) who will send others off to war but certainly not himself. When he’s given a command by General Brigham (Brendan Gleason) to be with the first wave on the front lines for Operation Downfall (The human’s final stand against the aliens), he does everything he can to talk his way out of it but to no avail. He is paired with J-Squad (Run by Bill Paxton in a charming and humorous Southern performance) and labeled as a deserter so that he’s kept under a watchful eye until the invasion the next morning.
Right from the get-go, many of us who have never seen war are suddenly thrust into it the same way William Cage is: with fear and confusion. The poor guy doesn’t even know how to turn the safety off of his weapon. Using these large technological suits as both armor and weaponry, the UDF is shocked to realize that they are not taking the enemy by surprise but instead, they are the ones being massacred. Cage encounters Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) the “Angel Of Verdun” on the beach disposing of the enemy with success but suddenly finds himself in a bad predicament and to the shock of no one (Or everyone, depending on how you want to look at it), dies on the field of battle.
However, we are suddenly introduced to another twist in the narrative. William Cage awakes the day before the invasion and re-lives the same day all over again, this time with confusion and shock. He dies again on the beach but then wakes up again. Realizing that he can retain knowledge and experience from events which he knows are always going to occur the same way, he partners up with Vrataski to find another way to defeat the aliens and save the planet.
Although it was disregarded by audiences upon release, “Edge Of Tomorrow” is consistently engaging, smart and epic in its scope. The battle scenes along the beaches of Normandy feel straight out of “Saving Private Ryan” visually (Although, audibly it can’t hold a candle to that film’s immaculate sound design) and do an impressive job of immersing the viewer into the action. Liman achieves this by combining both practical (The suits that the actors are wearing are real and there was apparently a lot of stunt wire work involved) and digital (The alien creature’s design is unique, menacing and thrilling) effects together which puts us right into the heat of battle along with Cage and Vrataski. The film loses a bit of that when it enters its third act and the action shifts over to Paris at nighttime where the visuals can’t be as sharp. However, it’s the growth of the character William Cage, effortlessly played by Tom Cruise and supported by the strength of Blunt’s character Rita Vrataski, and the film’s impeccable pacing with the “Groundhog Day” styled storytelling complete with training montages and thrilling action sequences, keep us engaged and invested.
While the message of the movie gets a bit lost in its third act and the ending doesn’t entirely make a whole lot of sense, “Edge Of Tomorrow” is one of the best films in director Doug Liman’s filmography. It might even be his best work. Tom Cruise may not give his best performance but he’s not terrible in this either as he uses his charm and the screenplay’s strong character arc to get us to care about this character. Same goes for Emily Blunt who may not win any awards for her work here but is reliable and believable in the role as the “Full Metal Bitch” who can kick any person or alien’s ass. It’s been twenty years since “Saving Private Ryan” and twenty-five years since “Groundhog Day” but to see filmmakers take two very popular movies, borrow certain famous elements and present them in a well-polished manner to give us something that feels unique? “Edge Of Tomorrow” deserved a better audience in 2014 and hopefully, four years later, we maggots are finally up on our feet about this movie.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The overall premise which borrows key elements from other films to present something that feels unique. Gorgeously realized action scenes that are chaotic and perfectly blend practical and digital effects with terrific editing. Cage’s character arc. Tom Cruise is effortless and Emily Blunt is strong. Together they make a team worth rooting for.
THE BAD – The action becomes messy in the dark night-time scenes of the third act. The film ends rather abruptly and in a manner which doesn’t make a ton of sense.