Edge of Tomorrow
Review by Mark Schwab
Ah. See, this is more like it. My friends have been a touch critical of my reviews of the big blockbusters, thinking that I only go for edgy art films with no "names" in it. Well, after the pretentious, predictable lead balloon that was Captain America - The Winter Soldier and the empty-headed, 2-dimensional video game that was X-Men - Days of Future Past, here is proof that I am totally capable of enjoying a fun summer popcorner movie.
It's the near future, and an alien race called the "mimics" by us humans are systematically taking over the world continent by continent, starting with Europe and Great Britain. Humanity is intending a "last stand" off France where a massive invasion is to take place.
Tom Cruise, in his best role in years, stars as Major William Cage - a fake soldier ("I did ROTC in college") who is utilized by the U.S. Army mostly as a pretty face to sell war propaganda stories to the CNN masses. When he finds himself suddenly assigned to the front lines of the big invasion, his cowardice and lack of training start to burn bright and he finds himself totally out of his element. Shortly after landing on the beach, Cruise is killed in a heated battle with one of the aliens and yet he wakes up alive again at the beginning of the same day as his deployment to that fateful beach. Caught in a time loop, Cage starts to see patterns and find his bravery, making slight changes to the outcome each time. It is up to him to unravel the mystery and come up with a plan to defeat the aliens.
How is this so much better? Front and center is Tom Cruise. I know it seems like the "in thing" to bag on Cruise these days but the fact is that when given the right role, he commands a screen better than just about anyone. Even at age 50. As Cage, Cruise is funny, physical (it's still him doing those action scenes and doing them convincingly) and anchors this all in good fun. So get over it haters - Cruise is great in this and makes the leads of Captain America and X-Men (except James McAvoy) look like pretenders.
Also welcome is Doug Liman's excellent direction. He knows what this sci-fi story is, briskly pacing it in under two hours, and I loved how he plays with the genre conventions here with some fun in-jokes and audience awareness (much like Wes Craven did with the Scream movies). Even though we have a lot of timelines going on here, we never get lost about where we are in the story. This was based on a respected Japanese novel (which supposedly had much lofiter themes in it) instead of a comic book or Hollywood marketing analytics so maybe that's what's helping here?
The aliens look good too but they are hardly the centerpiece of Edge of Tomorrow (another welcome change), mostly using the actors (Emily Blunt, Noah Taylor and Bill Paxton are all well-cast) and the story to entertain. And entertain it does! Thank you Doug Liman and Tom Cruise - you showed us all how this is done right.