Edge of Tomorrow

Posted by Joel Copling on June 5, 2014

One of the signs of a great movie star is the ability to engage in a visual-effects environment and sell the idea that what you are supposed to be "looking at" is really there and not behind the invisible but considerable barrier of a computer screen. No matter the recent controversy surrounding his personal life, Tom Cruise has never lost this ability, and he brings it back full-on with "Edge of Tomorrow," director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth's adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's "All You Need Is Kill." For such a relatively simple end-game and an innately silly premise, the film is blessed with a no-nonsense attitude toward its own, internal logic, a morbidly comic bite within its central gimmick, and an unstoppable sense of propulsion that doesn't stop for the easily confounded.

An alien race has left the usual devastation across Europe. They are quick, brutal, and, as my colleague Dustin Putman pointed out, an unholy mixture of octopus, Chihuahua, Attention Deficit Disorder, and the animated head of a mop. Maj. William Cage (Cruise) is no sooner arrested for impersonating an officer of the military (which he kind of is, considering Cage hates combat and the sight of even a papercut) than blackmailed by his new superior officer, Gen. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), into combating the aliens. All of his men (including himself) die in a "Saving Private Ryan"-esque attempt to eliminate the alien threat from their beach front.

Then Cage wakes up at the same location (sleeping on a rack of equipment outside the place wherein he is given his orders), dies again in the chaotic beach assault, and the pattern of dying and waking up repeats itself. This repetition, structurally, presents a series of geographical issues, but internally and narratively, McQuarrie and the Butterworths handle it particularly well. Cage must train with a sergeant named Rita (Emily Blunt), who went through the same process before losing the ability, and the morbid humor of Cage's only method of returning to train being to die over and over (and endure the taunts of a Master Sergeant played by a gloriously over-the-top Bill Paxton) is much more blessing than curse. Some of the methods of dying are startling and brutal, pushing the MPAA's PG-13 rating to the brink.

The third act of "Edge of Tomorrow" settles into a more conventional routine, as it perhaps must, with Cage, Rita, and the recruits into whose squad Cage is placed in each repeated reality finding and destroying the Omega, the literal brain of the alien race, which is located underneath the Louvre in Paris. That this twenty-minute segment is much more ordinary than what came before is of little consequence, considering that what came before is the armchair-gripping, teeth-chattering, seamlessly-woven stuff that makes summer blockbusters so appealing. Not to mention that at the center of it are Cruise and Blunt, two solid, irrepressibly charming individuals who know how to milk this sort of gimmicky material (and, in both cases, bring a sort of levity to it and to roles that aren't particularly three-dimensional) for all it's worth.

Film Information

Tom Cruise (Cage), Emily Blunt (Rita), Brendan Gleeson (Gen. Brigham), Bill Paxton (MSgt. Farell), Jonas Armstrong (Skinner), Tony Way (Kimmel), Kick Gurry (Griff), Franz Drameh (Ford), Dragomir Mrsic (Kuntz), Charlotte Riley (Nance), Masayoshi Haneda (Takeda), Noah Taylor (Dr. Carter).

Directed by Doug Liman and written by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, based on the novel "All You Need Is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

Rated PG-13 (intense sci-fi action/violence, language, brief suggestive material).

113 minutes.

Released on June 6, 2014.