Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is a bit of a weasel. The aliens have landed on Earth and started a hopeless war, and Cage hasn’t lifted a finger to do anything about it. He is the PR man for the United States Military, and as he puts it, “I do this, so I don’t have to do that.”
General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) has different plans for Cage, and he is going to experience combat firsthand. He has a half-baked idea of throwing Cage on the front line with a camera crew to capture some really stunning footage. Like most MacGuffins, it doesn’t make sense, nor does it need to. It just needs to get the hero into a dangerous situation.
Cage doesn’t take this information in the most heroic manner. He pleads with Brigham, he pulls rank, he tries blackmail, he even tries to hot-foot it out of there. None of it works, and Cage is arrested on the grounds of treason and is shipped off to the front lines. It is inevitable that Cage will find the role of hero, but watching him trying to worm his way out of that eventuality is enjoyable.
The battle Cage has a front-row seat for is appropriately held on the beaches of Normandy, and the alien forces—a mechanical squid-like being—are waiting for them. The soldiers are mowed down left and right as they scramble to the shore, and Cage manages to continually dodge destruction until he sacrifices himself by detonating a bomb while one of the aliens attacks him. Then he wakes up.
The alien that Cage killed was an Alpha, and when the Alpha’s blood mixed with his own, it gave him the power to jump back in time, restarting his day. This is a science-fiction time travel movie, and per usual, there is a great deal of exposition to explain the basic premise of the story. All the science mumbo-jumbo is handled quite quickly and simply by Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), who has developed several different theories about the aliens they are fighting. What Cage has inherited is the alien’s power, which is able to restart the day from scratch every time he dies. Cage has to learn by trial and error, and though these errors don’t leave scars, they really freaking hurt.
Cage’s cohort in this endless cyclical day is Rita (Emily Blunt), who also had the ability to hop back in time day after day. However, in one battle, she was not killed, only severely injured, and when rescued, she was given a blood transfusion. That negated the effect, and now she has to find another way to beat the aliens. She sees her chance in Cage, and she pushes him to the limits.
Edge of Tomorrow and last year’s Oblivion have two things in common, Tom Cruise and an interesting concept that is allowed to play all the way out. The most fascinating aspect of the time-travel premises of Edge is the relationship between Cage and Rita. He continues to learn more and more about her and can retain that information, but every time the day restarts, her knowledge of him has been wiped clean. Blunt plays the role perfectly, especially in the quieter moments when her eyes constantly search Cage’s face, wondering just how much he knows. How close have they grown? Cage plays this information close to the vest, letting bits and pieces slip out when necessary.
The only thing disappointing about Edge is the typical visual style. Shaky hand-held camera work has sadly become the norm for big-budget digital battle scenes, and Edge is not exempt. The action does take place in France and England, which adds a nice touch. It’s refreshing not to have to see another bombed-out New York or Los Angeles. There aren’t a whole lot of ways around the need for digital effects in these movies, and I suppose it could have been a lot worse. I just wished they didn’t look so common, which sadly detracts from such a delightfully uncommon script. Maybe they’ll get things right next time around…
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Directed By: Doug Liman
Written By: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Based on the novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Produced By: Jason Hoffs, Gregory Jacobs, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Erwin Stoff
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Masayoshi Haneda, Noah Taylor
Warner Brothers Pictures, Running Time 113 minutes, Rated PG-13, Release June 6, 2014.