EDGE OF TOMORROW
2014, 113 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material
Review by Joshua Handler
Everyone dies in Edge of Tomorrow...at least once. The marketing for Doug Liman's film has succeeded in familiarizing us with its tagline, "Live. Die. Repeat." For months we saw that tagline, and since the film's announcement, people were calling it a "sci-fi Groundhog Day." To call Edge of Tomorrow merely a sci-fi Groundhog Day would be doing Edge a massive disservice, as it is so much more. Not only is it an exciting, original action thriller, but it is an unpredictable, emotionally engaging piece that features a two standout perofmrnace from Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.
Edge of Tomorrow tells the story of an army officer, Bill Cage (Cruise), who has never been in combat before. Cage is dropped into battle being fought against an invading alien race on a beach. Not long after Cage lands on the beach, he is killed. However, when Cage is killed, he wakes up in the exact same spot he woke up in the day before. Cage relives the day over and over again and with the help of a war hero, Rita (Emily Blunt), he leads a final effort to take Earth back from the aliens.
Emotional engagement is what's missing from so many films nowadays, particularly big studio ones. Many filmmakers fail to realize that emotional engagement is what keeps us invested in movies and their characters. X-Men: Days of Future Past engaged me emotionally, which meant that I cared about what happened to the characters. Edge invested me as well. When we're invested in characters, we want to keep watching the movie to see if they live or die. Think about it, people have been going to the movies for over a century. At the beginning, they went for the spectacle, but when movies became more sophisticated, they became about the characters. During the Great Depression, people went to the movies to escape real life. In order to fully escape reality, one must become involved in the story they're watching and the key to that involvement is the characters. And the screenwriting team of Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth made sure to develop each of their characters so that we care.
The screenwriters keep raising the stakes and the scale of the onscreen conflict, making it impossible to determine whether Cage and Rita will actually live or die. Going into most action films, it's obvious that the protagonist(s) will live at the end, but with Edge, I could never tell because the narrative took many unpredictable turns that threatened to kill off any character at any moment.
One of the greatest strengths of the screenplay is that we don't watch Cage relive each portion of his fight to save humanity over and over again from the beginning. Instead, in the latter portions, we see Cage after he's been through a particular stage numerous times, which prevents the film from becoming tedious.
Tom Cruise has been one of the biggest stars in Hollywood for decades, but recently, his star has faded slightly. The films he was choosing weren't as good. Cruise has proven himself to be a powerful actor on many occasions (look no further than Magnolia or Born on the Fourth of July), but because the roles he's been playing have been bland, his performances were bland as well. However, with Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise is back. Initially, Cage doesn't want to go into battle. He's what people would call a "wimp," not usually the kind of character Cruise usually plays. Cruise seems to be very aware of the fact that he's playing against-type at the beginning and gives his performance a healthy dose of humor - something that has been distinctly lacking in his past few films. Cruise gives this performance everything and by the time he can be the action hero once more later in the film, he's charismatic and he really shines.
As Rita, Blunt is strong, as always. Rita is the rare female action protagonist that is as brave, powerful, and developed as her male counterpart. I've thought that Blunt was an enormously talented actress ever since seeing her memorable turn in The Devil Wears Prada, so to see her get the spotlight as a fully-developed action hero is very refreshing. She and Cruise have very natural chemistry, which makes the central friendship between their characters compelling.
Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is a standout sci-fi film that was extremely enjoyable to watch. It has humor, a heart, and a sense of wonder, along with two great lead performances and memorable supporting ones from Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. This film should entertain sci-fi/action fans, male and female audiences, and just about anyone looking for a fun ride at the movies this summer.