Say what you want about Tom Cruise in real life, but as an actor he never does anything halfway, which is why he’s easy to root for. Even when he plays abrasive characters like Major Cage in Doug Liman’s sci-fi action flick Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise puts in 100 percent. Because Cruise tries hard you can’t help liking Cage, although a big reason the film keeps you invested, is that Cage works to earn your sympathy.
Unlike other Tom Cruise characters who are brave, Cage is refreshing since he’s the polar opposite. After the armchair officer is ordered to fight in a global offensive against alien invaders, the unapologetic coward he tries to weasel his way out, and gets forced into service anyway. The combat-shy Cage dies quickly in battle, but in the process he acquires the aliens’ time travel power that allows him to relive the day over and over. He realizes that by using this ability, he can save mankind from losing the war, however first he must enlist help from Rita (Emily Blunt), a soldier who understands what he’s going through.
Edge of Tomorrow is effective on a narrative level because it intentionally keeps its time travel elements simple. This leaves little room for plot holes and allows you to get lost in its experience. With less focus on time travel, Liman concentrates on the more interesting human aspects of the story, like Cage’s progression as a soldier and the development of his partnership with Rita. This gives Cage the necessary room to earn your respect while he busts his butt to become stronger and faster.
Emily Blunt impresses in her first big action role as the tough Rita. When people utter her nickname “Full Metal Bitch,” you get the sense that it’s meant with utter seriousness and awe-filled respect. And it’s sad that this needs to be said, but it’s wonderful that her character isn’t there for eye candy or to be the love interest. Rita is badass on her own, equal to Cage, and in many ways, superior to him. As Cage starts to care for her, you get the sense it’s based on friendship and not out of a desire to woo her.
At first, Cage’s repeated deaths are used for laughs in the vein of Groundhog’s Day. Sometimes he kills himself on purpose and other times Rita murders him so he can start fresh. His silly deaths and ridiculous screams are pretty funny. However as the film wears on, it takes on a more appropriate serious tone. This shift feels proper as Cage explores different directions and options for defeating the enemy. Since there’s variety in his actions, the day never becomes repetitive and the movie moves at a fast pace.
The special effects in Edge of Tomorrow are well-done overall and the mech suits worn by the soldiers look very cool. Although sometimes its habit of throwing stuff in your face can be annoying in 3D and in wide aerial shots the camera feels downright jittery. There’s only one major place where the picture stumbles: it’s ending. The resolution is kind of confusing and though it feels Tom Cruise-y and right for him, it will leave you scratching your head a bit. That said, it’s not enough to ruin things.
Edge of Tomorrow is based on a graphic novel, but thankfully it’s not a superhero film, sequel, or reboot. It’s a smart, fast ride with excellent special effects and fantastic characters, which easily makes it my favorite blockbuster of the summer so far.