First was War Of The Worlds. Then Oblivion. Now we have Edge Of Tomorrow. Earlier this week, I posted on Facebook whether or not Tom Cruise is contractually obligated to work with aliens. After seeing this film, turns out it took three attempts to get it right.
That’s not to say the previous films weren’t good films. But what they lacked, this film makes up for in spades, namely a just right amount of humor intermingled with wall-to-wall action. This is a film that knows precisely when it needs to be serious and when it needs to relax, go with it and have fun. Are you listening, Godzilla?
On the surface, the story is a mashup of 1986’s Aliens, with all the futuristic weapons and exo-suits employed by the military, even down to aliens with acid for blood; a dash of Starship Troopers, and a heaping dose of Groundhog Day. Tom Cruise plays former ad-exec William Cage, now a major in a unified Western military that is at war with an alien race called the Mimics. Cage is essentially a cheerleader for the military, using his marketing skills to convince the public that the war is winnable, which in fact it is not. After insulting the general of the allied forces, Cage is thrown on the frontline of battle, although he has no combat training. Seems a little harsh (and contrived) to sentence a man with no fighting skills to death for mouthing off a little, given he’s in fear for his life, but no matter. Predictably, Cage doesn’t last long when deployed on the battlefield, in a scene that, perhaps in slight bad taste, is reminiscent of the Normandy invasion (especially given the fact that the movie opened on the 70th anniversary of that event). However, despite the comparison, the opening battle scene is a wonder and through a series of circumstances, Cage finds himself in a time loop, where he repeats the day every time he dies. Which is frequently.
It’s in these scenes where Cruise just absolutely shines. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a joy it was to see the usually indomitable Cruise portray a feckless powerless grunt who has absolutely no clue what he’s doing, in advance of the hell he’s about to experience. It’s Cruise playing totally against type and he nails it. The first time his unit is deployed, I genuinely felt pity and sorrow for the guy because he reacted just as I would were I forced into a heavy metal exoskeleton which I didn’t know how to operate, with an inadequate number of rounds, surrounded by soldiers who couldn’t care less if I died, and I were forced to jump out of an exploding plane into the midst of a battle with multi-tentacled aliens. As the story progresses, of course Cage gets better and better with each reset, until he becomes the superhuman Tom Cruise we’re all familiar with. As a matter of fact, the last act of this film, plays like Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise; all humor is jettisoned for all-out action. But it works. Even the ending, as hokey as it is, plays out exactly as we expect and it’s exactly what we want.
As far as the cast, Emily Blunt is awesome. It shows that she trained her butt off to perform many of her stunts and I wonder if her agent didn’t screw up by not getting her an audition for the Wonder Woman role in the upcoming Batman v. Superman film. Noah Taylor, otherwise known as Locke, the guy who cut off Jaime Lannister’s hand on Game Of Thrones, has a small role as an engineer who assists Cruise and Blunt in their mission to defeat the aliens. Bill Paxton appears as Master Sergeant Farrell, Cage’s commanding officer, and he does what he does best. Paxton, throughout his career, has proven there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do; he goes toe to toe with Cruise onscreen and more than holds his own. I love that Paxton is back at playing smug wiseass characters as also seen on Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, because he’s so damn good at that. But as is usually the case in a Tom Cruise movie, the film belongs to Cruise. No matter what you may think of him offscreen, the guy consistently delivers, and does no less here. Despite the impossibly good looks and fit build at 51 years of age; unlike many of his films in the last decade or so which occasionally played as vanity projects, here Cruise brings humor, humility and vulnerability to the role. He doesn’t come off as a superman, as he so often does in his action films. That is, until he is required to become the hero, and by the time he assumes that mantle, we’re absolutely ready for it and we demand it.
The aliens were a bit of a letdown. While they are monstrous, their design is CGI overkill. They’re imbued with abilities that don’t make much sense, given their appearance and the fact that they seem as personable as the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. They’re afforded all the cliches that many summer movie alien hordes of late have suffered. The logic behind some of the plot makes little sense. The title sounds like a soap opera that your mom watched back in the 1950s. But this is Cruise in top form and the movie fires on nearly every piston. Edge Of Tomorrow demands that you see it today. 4/5 reels