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 as a slick Army PR 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.