Starring: Tom Cruise (Oblivion), Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau), Bill Paxton (Aliens), Brendan Gleeson (The Guard), Noah Taylor (Vanilla Sky)
Director: Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity)
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) and Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game)
Runtime: 1 hour 53 minutes
Release Date: 30 May (UK), 6 June (US)
Tom Cruise is at it again. Despite his age, he’s still pumping out movies as frequently as ever and, as of late, managed to keep them consistently good for the most part. Cruise is no stranger to sci-fi, but Edge of Tomorrow is possibly the most outlandish of his alien encounters yet. Does this bombast work to the man’s favour and create another hit, or has Cruise’s lucky streak hit a bumper?
The premise of a character stuck repeating the same events over and over again until they get it right is hardly a new one; Groundhog Day and Source Code are two obvious examples of this type of story. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Edge of Tomorrow is an unoriginal idea, far from it, though it’s hard not to have that kneejerk reaction. But whilst those previous films were a comedy and a sci-fi thriller respectively, Edge of Tomorrow is far more about the action, using the premise as much for creating spectacle as much as crafting funny and tense situations. The film manages to straddle a good tone, injecting just enough humour into the proceedings without losing the intensity of the story. The plot itself is well handled, never falling into the swamp of paradoxes and illogic that time travel stories can often get bogged down in. Other than one plot beat that made me go “Why didn’t you just do that earlier?”, the story manages to chug along at a good clip, allowing plenty of time for both the plot and the characters to develop. The time loop stuff is handled excellently too, mainly because the film never feels the need to always show the loop starting again, sometimes cutting back to the same situation repeatedly for dramatic and comedic effect. I also love a good movie with an ambiguous ending; it’s not exactly Inception, but I do really enjoy how they handled the last few seconds of the movie.
Tom Cruise, as reliable an actor as he is, does often feel like he’s playing the same character over and over with only slight variations. Surprisingly, Edge of Tomorrow eschews this and presents Cruise with a character I don’t think he’s really done since Rain Man: a jackass. Bill Cage is not the all-American badass with the sweet moves and the nice hair. He’s a selfish coward, one trapped in the last place he wants to be, and once stuck in his time loop he is both frightened and bemused by it. It’s great to see Cruise play vulnerable for a change, and he does it surprisingly well, but he also manages to remain a relatable and sympathetic character that you want to see become better; somewhat comparable to Sharlto Copley’s role in District 9. The role of badass is handled by Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski and she does that job gracefully, embodying that no-nonsense Ripley-esque demeanour excellently whilst not losing her own natural charm and comedic temperament. Her and Cruise’s relationship works brilliantly, mainly because it is refreshingly not played with attraction at the forefront. It’s rare to see a man and a woman star together in a movie and not have them hook up, and whilst near the conclusion of the story this is somewhat undercut, their relationship ends in a more debatable way that ultimately doesn’t totally undermine their camaraderie. It’s good to see Bill Paxton back, especially in a part so similar to his classic role of Hudson from Aliens, and the man remains as strangely endearing as ever. The rest of the cast isn’t as important but all do fine: Brendan Gleeson gets to be scowly and dim, Noah Taylor works as a good “plot exposition dumper”, and even Cage’s fellow soldiers feel just lively enough that you can remember them all (just maybe not by name), but the film ultimately belongs to Cruise and Blunt.
Edge of Tomorrow is a large-scale film in both story and budget, and for the most part it all works well. I really love the design and atmosphere of the film, crafting a future that seems plausible but still full of sci-fi goodies like mech suits and holographic displays; it’s kind of like Gears of War, but with less steroid abuse. The design of the aliens also feels very unique; mainly I’m glad not to see just the same insectoid blandness all aliens seem to be these days. The action sequences are fun and interesting, mainly because of the abilities the mech suits endow on our heroes, but spotty camera operation and quick editing sometimes spoils them. The visual effects look pretty convincing, mainly thanks to the grounded design of the picture, as is the sound design, and the score keeps the pace flowing but honestly isn’t that memorable.
Edge of Tomorrow manages to be smart and entertaining in equal measure; it’s a sweet blend of smart sci-fi ideas and spectacular action spectacle. The story is riveting and the central performances are top notch, making it a great excursion for those of you who love a good plot, but it’s also got plenty of explosions and gunfire for those looking for pure entertainment. It’s just an all-round solid blockbuster with only minor gripes to pick, which is surprisingly rare in the current cinematic landscape. If you want to go have some fun but don’t want to completely turn off your brain, Edge of Tomorrow should deliver that to you in spades.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10