EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Jonas Armstrong
2014, 131 Minutes, Directed by:
A man is doomed to live and relieve a single day in his
life until he solves the problem(s) the day presents. Sounds like a great
idea for a movie, eh? And why not? You enjoyed it when they called it
Groundhog Day (1993). You may
even have found it exciting and intriguing in Source Code (2011). So why not
take the same premise and do it again?
This time around
our protagonist is Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), who had to make a choice
how he would fight back after a deadly alien attack has taken over
continental Europe. The aliens, known as mimics for no discernible reason,
have been unstoppable until their defeat at the Battle of Verdun, where Sgt.
Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) was the hero of the day. Now commanding General
Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) sees the tide turning and he has a new role for
Cage who has essentially been doing PR for the war effort. He’s going to be
with the troops when they invade and provide morale boosting reports. Cage,
somewhat of a chickenhawk – always ready to rally the troops as long as his
own neck isn’t on the line – refuses, not quite understanding the chain of
He wakes up busted to private and thrown into a platoon
led by Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton).
He is sent into combat barely trained and, of course,
dies. However, something has happened to him during an encounter with one of
the aliens that causes him to go back to the moment when he becomes a
private. This happens again and again, ending each time with his death and a
reboot. From here on out you know where the story is going: Cage and his
eventual ally Vrataski will keep trying and failing but learning something
more that they can use on their next go round.
It’s an exciting and entertaining movie because we get
caught up with the problem solving, and because Cruise plays against his
usual action hero persona. In a sense, the story is about Cage slowly
learning that if they are going to defeat the aliens, his role is crucial
and he can’t opt out. There’s also some leavening humor, particularly from
Paxton as the sarcastic sergeant. When Cruise returns and starts
anticipating what he will do and say, the scenes work because of Paxton’s
"For summer entertainment, it will more than do."
As for the war itself, the aliens are a neat special
effect but we learn nothing about them or their motives. They may as well be
an unending stream of enemies generated in a video game. There’s plenty of
action, even if the payoff seems akin to the one in Cruise’s last SF film,
last summer’s Oblivion. Fair to
say, this is the much better film.
If there’s a tinge of regret it’s that none of these
films take the concept of a time loop very far. The late Ken Grimwood’s
World Fantasy Award winning novel, Replay, is about a man who dies in his
forties and then wakes up in his college dorm room in his twenties with his
memories intact. Having an opportunity to relive a life – or completely
change it – proves to be both more ambitious and more poignant. It’s not
merely the one day do-over that the characters in Edge of Tomorrow and the
earlier films get.
That said, Edge of
Tomorrow is a thoughtful, action-packed, and occasionally amusing take on
the premise melded into the alien invasion story. For summer entertainment,
it will more than do.
Daniel M. Kimmel is a
veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. He recently
released his first novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood
and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Watch trailer / clip: