Tom Cruise continues to build what is becoming an impressive genre movie resume in this film, one of his best yet.
Edge of Tomorrow (alternatively known by its tagline Live. Die. Repeat, and marketed as such on home release is a 2014 American science fiction action film starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Doug Liman directed the movie based on a screenplay adapted from the 2004 Japanese light novel “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.
Finally, it seems like western filmmakers are waking up to the wealth of material available in various manga, and anime, that would provide an excellent basis for some live action films. A fact that anime fans have known for a couple of decades or more. I’m still waiting on a decent live action Dragon Ball Z film, along with Akira, and one based on one of the many Mecha properties out there.
The film, in this case, relies on material that has a full spectrum of the qualities desirable in those terms. It has a solid science fiction premise based on interplanetary war, action, mystery, adventure and some menacing aliens that are truly alien, that represent a real challenge for humans. The actors involved also get credit for making this film as enjoyable as it is.
Tom Cruise plays Bill Cage, a character that goes through a thorough evolution in the movie, and it is an engaging transformation to watch. He goes from being a grinning jerk, used to getting what he wants when he flashes his photogenic smile and turns on the boyish charm. Cage grows to become a less shallow, and more worthwhile human being.
He is drafted for real warfare and is forced to come face to face with a reality where his looks and cliched sound bytes don’t work anymore. He has a whole new set of situations he has to deal with and has to try something new to survive the circumstances he finds himself in. He doesn’t; survive that is, but learns in the process of dying. Cruise pulls off his character’s response to the situation in a believable and sometimes amusing manner that gives the film some of it’s more enjoyable moments.
When he gets killed in a brutal battle on a beach, Cage suddenly finds himself back at the point where he first encounters the new reality of his unpleasant circumstances. As he dies, his exposure to alien blood somehow gives him the ability to relive the final day of his life.
Every time he dies, it’s not the end, but instead results in his existence hitting a reset button, allowing him to experience that last day over and over again, memories intact, and knowing what the near future holds in store. He revisits the brutal hell of the battle on the beach repeatedly n a nightmarish loop.
He decides to try to change the series of events that lead to his death, and alter the future to avoid the defeat of humanity at the hands (or tentacles maybe?) of the alien antagonists.
Likewise Emily Blunt is memorably impressive as Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski, also known as the Angel of Verdun, because of her role in a significant human victory in the war. Blunt’s performance is outstanding and in some ways upstages Cruise’ efforts in the film. She is the exact opposite of Cage, and a total badass, proficient at her job of dealing out death and destruction to the hostile aliens who have invaded Earth.
Cage allies himself with her after getting stuck in his time loop due to exposure to extraterrestrial blood that has him trapped into reliving the same day over and over again, like a version of Groundhog Day from hell. It turns out that she has experienced the repetitive deja vu also.
The aliens, have an enormous tactical advantage, knowing what’s going to happen before it does because part of their social structure includes a central controlling mind, identified by the humans as the Omega. This over-mind can reset time by a day whenever one of its alpha soldiers dies. When Cage becomes part of this reset process, the Omega becomes aware of him and wants its ability back. The story becomes a race against time, again, and again, when Cage and Vrataski set out to destroy the alien Omega brain.
With her help, Cage grows from being a pretty useless talking head and develops into a full-fledged warrior. Together they develop a plan to defeat their alien enemies and save humanity from defeat. Edge Of Tomorrow is sometimes a grimly amusing film, where every time he makes a mistake that results in his getting injured, Vrataski kills him so that he can try again. She seems almost overly eager to kill him again at times.
The supporting cast, including Bill Paxton, who is excellent and memorable, as Master Sergeant Farell, and Brendan Gleeson as General Brigham, along with the rest, are all excellent in their respective roles also. That never hurts when the objective is to create a great movie, and this one succeeds at doing just that.
Visually, this film is also memorably impressive with slick production qualities all around, with both practical and realistic CGI in full effect, which includes the depiction of some exoskeleton battle suits featured in the film. The aliens are suitably scary, and creepy in their genuinely alien appearance and physical characteristics. These are not your humanoid type aliens, but creatures right out of your nightmares, with a bizarre, otherworldly appearance.
Once again though, like in other movies of this sort, these aliens have a fatal flaw in their makeup and weakness that the humans can exploit. They have a hive mentality and are all networked by a central controlling brain. Like in other films involving hive controlled aliens this turns out to be a fatal shortcoming in their makeup. So, despite having the advantage in most other ways, they are doomed by their biology.
This hive structure, and mentality, in aliens, is quickly becoming a science fiction trope that writers seem to like as of late. It has been used in genre films and tv shows on several occasions and works here to help save humanity from deadly alien antagonists once again.
The film speeds towards its conclusion not giving the viewer much time to examine the premise too carefully. The whole time loop idea based on the alien’s ability to reset time does not bear too close an examination, but this is the premise the entire plot revolves around. It becomes a tale of try, try again, and the stubborn determination to complete a near-impossible task, against overwhelming odds.
While all this is happening, the relationship between Cage and Vrataski percolates within this context of death, and war. The film received a robust and enthusiastic response from critics and fans alike and has endured as one of my favorites from the last five years or so. Good stuff, well worth watching again.
*UPDATE* -Since this article was written a sequel is officially in production featuring the original stars. Deja Vu all over again.