Scott F. Evans
Let me start by saying that I’ve never really liked Tom Cruise, particularly early Tom Cruise. I hate movies about entitled, cocky asshole characters that learn humility only through the pain and suffering of others. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be a challenge finding another modern American actor who embodied that archetype so well. He finds a way to make contemptible, punk characters likeable enough that audiences are willing to go on this journey with him. And box office receipts don’t lie. Clearly this character type resonated with the masses, but I blame that on the 80’s.
Then along came Minority Report, and suddenly my hardcore dislike began to…waver. I thought I could wave that off as the ‘Spielberg Effect’, just as I had done with Oliver Stone with Born on the Fourth of July. But then he hit me with the triple tap of The Last Samurai, Collateral, and War of the Worlds.
Son of a bitch.
So here we are at the Edge of Tomorrow. The film is directed by Doug Liman of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and The Bourne Identity fame. The script was written in part by Christopher McQuarrie, screenwriter of Jack Reacher, and Valkyrie (which both starred Cruise), and everyone’s favorite crime classic The Usual Suspects. The film is an adaptation of the manga graphic novel All You Need Is Kill. It’s set just a few short years in the future. Earth has been invaded by aliens that we call Mimics. The international defense forces have been having a rough time of it, only winning one major skirmish so far, The Battle of Verdun.
Cruise plays Major William Cage, a former ad exec turned military P.R. specialist. He’s never seen a day of combat in his life. Instead, he hypes the war on the various news networks. When a General orders him embedded with a squad of soldiers headed to the frontline of a D-Day like invasion, Cruise attempts the Coward’s Three Steps of Shirking Combat Responsibility. 1)Cajoling, 2)Blackmailing, and finally, 3)Full Retreat. Of course he’s caught and sent straight to the front. Without spoiling too much, he is, naturally, killed during this battle and develops the ability to loop backwards in time. Every time he dies, he jumps back to a specific restart point the day before and has to do it all again. A great added element is that he remembers everything that happens, so he picks up all of this combat experience. During one of the battles, he encounters Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, who tells him she also had the time loop ability and that how the humans won The Battle of Verdun. She has since lost the ability and Cage is the only one who can help them win this new battle and perhaps the war.McQuarrie’s script is what really makes a cheesy time loop alien invasion script work. It’s funny without chasing jokes and focuses more on character than the time travel gimmick, which like every time travel flick, doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think too hard about it. Liman keeps the pace moving without everything feeling rushed and captures the action sequences pretty well. No quick cut shaky cam ala The Bourne series here.
What’s really interesting is that Edge of Tomorrow is the first actually good videogame movie. No, there’s no Xbox or PS version out there (yet), but the very mechanics of the film function exactly like a video game. The character is confronted with a challenge and dies, only to respawn with the knowledge of what went wrong the last time and gets a “do-over”. It’s like Groundhog Day with guns and stuff.