Edge of Tomorrow (12a)
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson & Bill Paxton
Running time: 113mins
A soldier fighting in a war against aliens finds himself caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle, though he becomes better skilled along the way.
Edge of Tomorrow is a pretty old-fashioned movie. It’s a complex, yet deceptively simple tale told well. Cage (Cruise) is a reluctant soldier – to say more would ruin some of the fun early on – who finds himself in the frontlines of a war against an alien race who finally seems to be on the verge of defeat. However, he finds that when he’s dropped into what should be a fairly lightweight battle, everything is not as it seems. And then he dies.
And then he comes back to before the battle begins. Again. And again. And again.
And so the question is asked… what the hell is happening?
Doug Liman, director of the first Bourne movie and Mr & Mrs Smith has been relatively quiet in the direction front in recent years, preferring to stay in producer roles on various TV shows, but it’s easy to see why he came out of the shadows for this one.
Part Starship Troopers, part Aliens, part Terminator, part Oblivion and big part Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow – originally called All you Need Is Kill after the novel by by Hiroshi Sakurazaka – is big, bold, fun, funny, scary and well handled.
I said at the beginning that it’s old-fashioned film-making and it is in the respect that the alien threat is little seen for the first half of the movie and even when it is, it moves so fast it’s hard to get a look. Little is explained as to what or who they are, in fact at one point when some people ponder what the aliens even want, Cage asks “Does it matter?” and what is gleamed comes from throwaway bits of dialogue for the most part. The fact is the alien has attacked and is killing humanity at a relentless pace. They can’t be talked to or reasoned with so no-one really knows what they want and isn’t that the scariest thing of all?
On a side note, it is so refreshing to see a world at war with aliens that is still functioning; sure, people are pre-occupied and being drafted, but the pubs are still open, TV continues and cities are still standing – it’s a breath of fresh air to not be knee deep in a post-apocalyptic world.
Also, when Cage starts to relive the same day over and over, there is a lot of fun to be had and, like Groundhog Day, the laughs come from death in the most unlikely places, but there is also a feeling of desperation, that feeling of inescapable fate – or lack thereof. He tries saving people in his platoon, he tries various things and nothing works until he meets Rita (Blunt), a decorated war hero who has been through what he’s experiencing… being caught in a day without a means of escape. When she explains how and why this is happening the movie truly kicks in.
Edge of Tomorrow is fantastically confident in itself. It hits the ground running and rarely lets the pace slacken. The performances are solid with Cruise and Blunt having a lot of fun, Cruise as a reluctant hero (quite against type at least early on) and Blunt as a hardened warrior who tolerates very little, Brendan Gleeson’s General Brigham is a great, if rather two-dimensional, character who outclasses Cruise in every scene they share (no mean feat) and Bill Paxton is undoubtedly having the most amount of fun as the Kentucky Master Sergeant Farell who’s sole existence is to make Cage’s life difficult. Throw in an assortment of grunts straight out of Aliens – yes, all the stereotypes are filled, though, like Starship Troopers you feel this in very knowingly done – and what you have is a fun, confident cast.
And what of the monsters themselves? They are pretty brilliant, scary and brutal and hark back to the days of Patrick Tatopoulos’ work on Pitch Black with a touch of ID4 and, as I said already, they belong firmly to the ‘less seen the better’ school of monsters for the most part.
With the mix of good cast, solid direction – the landing scenes plays out like a slightly more family-friendly version of Saving Private Ryan but lacks none of the terror – and good action, with the second half focusing more on the characters themselves before moving into the inevitable flat-out finale, Edge of Tomorrow could be the sleeper hit of the summer as the simple fact that there’s not a superhero in sight and it could be just what audiences want.
However, it does fall shy, and to say too much would be spoilerific territory, but there are plot threads that, when played out and thought about, simply don’t add up – Emily Blunt’s character in particular knows things about her ability to ‘reset the day’ and the enemy that simply don’t make sense… and she has a conversation about trying to pass the ability on with Cage that is still baffling me as I write. Oh and do yourself a favour – leave two minutes before the credits if you can because the ending, oh the very end, is a baffling mess – it’s only a couple of minutes but it feels like it has studio and test audience written all over it. I strongly suspect that somewhere there’s at least one different ending in a vault. Oh, well, maybe we’ll see it in a special edition at some point if it exists.
Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is fun, exciting, funny, scary and very well executed and may just be the antidote to superheroes that audiences need. Sure, there are flaws but you’ll probably be too wrapped up to care and, in many ways, isn’t this the scourge of movies that involve time-travel? But that ending, oh god, that ending…
4 out of 5 Nerds