Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Review #1,043

Director:  Doug Liman
Cast:  Tom CruiseEmily BluntBill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Plot:  A soldier fighting in a war with aliens finds himself caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle, though he becomes better skilled along the way.

Genre:  Action / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  113min
Rating:  PG13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.

“Come find me when you wake up!”

Very few would have predicted that Edge of Tomorrow would be a hit with critics.  And I am sure with Tom Cruise headlining the movie, and its very positive word-of-mouth, it may just set the box-office alight with solid numbers.  And I hope this will push the major studios to put more effort into planning projects of value. 

Many blockbusters today are projects of worth, not of value.  Sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes generate easy money.  Repetition is the familiar name of the game in Hollywood, yet with a measure of irony, it also informs the mode of storytelling in Edge of Tomorrow, which I consider a blockbuster of value.  It is also well-set to be one of the year's most enjoyable yet mentally-intriguing pictures.

Doug Liman is the director of this solid sci-fi actioner.  I enjoyed his last feature Fair Game (2010), an accomplished political thriller, but he is best known for his work in The Bourne Identity (2002).  With Edge of Tomorrow, he attempts a large-scale project about an alien invasion and the soldiers who are sent to fight them in a do-or-die battle. 

Tom Cruise plays Cage, a conniving high-ranking officer who finds himself forced to partake in battle, despite not being combat-trained.  He dies, and wakes up at the beginning of the day again.  And this continues, as he relives the same day all over again, now becoming more experienced in the art of war.  

A woman warrior Rita played by Emily Blunt comes into the picture, and while it could have easily gone down the traditional route of romance, Liman and the screenwriters including Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, 1995) refrain from doing so, choosing instead to focus on the human relationship that is forged from the peril of experience.  Any inkling of romance only comes later.

At its core, this is a film of, and about, experience.  Cage doesn’t simply become more skilled in combat; he also becomes less selfish and treasures the opportunities to build (or re-build) his relationship with Rita.  Their performances are decent, and the film’s epilogue closes Cage’s character arc perfectly.  Many reviewers have called Edge of Tomorrow a mash of Starship Troopers (1997), Groundhog Day (1993) and Aliens (1986).  So I shall not repeat, except to say that it is quite an accurate descriptor. 

Liman’s film is refreshing in this age of the frustratingly familiar (read: boring) blockbuster.  What’s most impressive though is its perfect pacing; it is an outstanding example of making use of editing to keep audiences consistently engaged when the plot could have repeated itself to boredom.  It also does not forget the importance of humour. 

Verdict:  A solid, perfectly-paced sci-fi action movie that is also, and importantly, refreshing.


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