Tom Cruise’s previous foray into sci-fi didn’t turn out so well: 2013’s Oblivion was a generic, stupid and pointless movie with an anticlimactic ending. Apart from some beautiful set and art design, only Cruise made that film watchable, but just barely. While the world’s biggest movie star is also one of Edge Of Tomorrow‘s biggest strengths, he’s hardly the sole reason for why it’s the fun science fiction action flick it is. Doug Liman’s directing prowess gives the movie a sense of style and urgency for example, and Dion Beebe’s cinematography only adds to that: it’s always clear what’s going on on screen, with all of the film’s action scenes framed wonderfully and properly, something that seems to be a lost art these days. But, despite how good the action is and how good the movie looks, Edge Of Tomorrow really shines because of the story it tells and, more astute, because of how it tells it.Edge Of Tomorrow is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need Is Kill, and the film’s script is quite ingenious. The plot boils down to this: aliens have invaded the earth and are likely to wipe out mankind, but it’s then that Tom Cruise’s character William Cage gets infected with alien goo and receives a very special power; the ability to relive a day after he dies. It’s a ludicrous premise for sure, but the way the film handles it is why Edge Of Tomorrow gets away with it: each time Cage tries to explain it everyone thinks he is certifiable, a clever conceit to make use of the audience’s likely similar reaction to the story. Because of it, it’s easy to just accept the plot and go with it, which gives way to even more clever storytelling. Much like 1993’s Groundhog Day or 2011’s stellar effort Source Code, Edge Of Tomorrow has great fun with its “live, fail, repeat” mechanic, something that’s akin to what it’s like to play a video game. Part of the fun is finding out if Cage is able to figure out what he has to do next once a plan fails, but once the basic formula is established, the script and film rightfully skip over the “trial and error” moments. Because of it Edge Of Tomorrow‘s pacing is fantastic: there is never a dull moment, never a time when you feel like the film is spinning its wheels or gets bogged down by the rules it set for itself. Instead it uses creative solutions to make this a tense and action-packed action film. Surprisingly there are also many laughs to be had, because the writers and director perfectly understood the comical possibilities of the hero’s special condition.
It also gives Cruise a chance to show his comedic chops again. Some of the directors he’s worked with in the past have used Cruise’s gift for deadpan delivery to great effect in their films, take Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher for example (who also co-penned Edge Of Tomorrow‘s screenplay), or Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but here the first and second act use it to its fullest. Not only is Cruise’s wuss completely surprised by what’s happening to him, he also has a hard time shutting up about it, which serves as the basis for a lot of hilarious scenes. Cruise’s oddball character plays incredibly well off of the film’s many straight-laced characters, which gives Edge Of Tomorrow many moments of much-needed levity in between war scenes and chases. There are even some genuinely touching moments to be found throughout the film, not only thanks to Cruise’s performance as the scared and human Cage who grows over the course of the movie, but also because of Emily Blunt’s fantastic performance. Much like Cruise she has a real presence to her and she exudes strength, courage, heart and even charm and vulnerability when the story calls for it. The way the two characters are written and how they are performed by the two leads really anchor Edge Of Tomorrow, and ground an over-the-top and at times insane action film in a human reality.
But in the end, Edge Of Tomorrow is still just that: an action film. It’s an excellent one, but some of the negatives that plague the genre are still at play here. The supporting cast for example, like most action or films, consists mostly of types and not of people, with forced tough army talk being thrown about. There’s no shortage of cringeworthy and corny lines here, some of which are even repeated. Additionally, while the film has heart and features two phenomenal heroes, it’s still a plot- and action-driven film that mainly aims to entertain and deliver a thrilling ride while you’re watching it. It undoubtedly succeeds at what it sets out to do, even passes with flying colors, but it’s just not an especially memorable movie. It doesn’t go the extra mile to move you or make you think, like Duncan Jones’ superior Source Code did. But the thing is this: it really doesn’t have to.
Edge Of Tomorrow is a great time at the movies. It’s a clever, fun, action-packed, exciting and at times hilarious sci-fi romp that knows exactly what it is: great pop corn entertainment. 8/10