MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’

edge_of_tomorrow

Film: Edge Of Tomorrow
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
Directed by: Doug Liman

Though it falls short of its potential, Edge Of Tomorrow is as good as blockbuster science fiction will likely get in 2014.

Tom Cruise is Major William Cage, an officer in the army who has managed to make it his entire career without spending a single day on a battlefield, despite the fact mankind has spent the past several years embroiled in a war with an extraterrestrial force that we do not fully understand. After speaking out of line to a high ranking military official, however, Cage is unceremoniously dropped off on a foreign military base under falsified circumstances and forced to join the ranks of those who will be on the frontline of the next day’s battle. He tries to fight for his freedom, but no one will believe him. The battle comes and, as you have no doubt witnessed in the six month advertising campaign leading up to this release, Cruise and every other soldier dropped into battle dies shortly after landing on the ground.

…Or do they?

As soon as Cage is killed on the battlefield he awakens to find himself at the very start of the day prior, lying on the ground of the military base where he was dropped off. He repeats the prior day’s events while continuously asking others if they have a similar sense of deja vu, but everyone who he tries to communicate with disregards everything he has to say. The battle comes, the aliens attack, and everyone dies. Again.

By the third time Cage awakens on the military base he is convinced he is not crazy. For one reason or another he has become trapped in an endless loop, and it’s entirely up to him to figure out what can be done to break the cycle of death. He repeats the day again, this time making changes along the way, including the decision to save the life of army celebrity known lovingly as the ‘full metal bitch’ (Emily Blunt). She knows right away Cage is special, and as soon as her life is safe she sacrifices herself, but not before informing Cage to find her when he wakes up.

This is a turning point for Cage and the film. For the first time since this strange series of events began Cage believes he has found someone who understands what is happening to him, and as luck would have it she’s living on the base where Cage keeps waking up. She won’t know who he is because they have yet to meet, but at least his story can begin to change.

It’s when Cage finally encounters the so-called full metal bitch that Edge Of Tomorrow settles into the heart of its story and fully explores the possibilities of a life that repeats every time the individual living it is killed. This involves elements of fear, heroism, and – believe it or not – comedy. It’s a classic Tom Cruise character in a futuristic setting, but a classic Tom Cruise character nonetheless. Only a handful of minutes pass before his ultra white teeth temporarily blind those watching in 3D with his signature smile, and from that moment forward he commands the screen, even making light of his short stature along the way.

The true star of Edge, however, is almost certainly Emily Blunt. In a world where almost every female character in action exists solely so the male lead has someone to save and more often than not have sex with, Blunt’s character Rita exists to save William Cage, and she gets to kick a lot of ass along the way. She is what he needs, even though the world needs him. A typical blockbuster would use that setup to tie-in romance, and though that does become an unfortunate and totally unnecessary element at some point the story keeps emotions at bay so that the characters and audience can figure out the puzzle at hand.

Aside from a romantic element that feels present only to please some studio exec who felt it necessary to draw in certain demographics, Edge Of Tomorrow also struggles to maintain its pace throughout its various resets. The first half of the film passes incredibly fast, but once the leads begin to get a handle on things the film loses a bit of its wind. Things never stall altogether, thanks in part to the ability to reset the scene whenever needed, but as the third act takes its usual heroic course some viewers may begin to feel just how uncomfortable their seats have become over the last 100-ish minutes.

The creature design in Edge is particularly interesting, mostly because the enemies of the human race rarely slow down long enough for viewers to see them in full. This is clever from a filmmaking standpoint and frustrating from the perspective of the audience, but in the brief moments these monsters do take center stage their presence is scary enough to give young viewers nightmares. I wish director Doug Liman had explored who and what they were enough for viewers to more fully understand the film’s universe and what is taking place. That said, by keeping such the majority of this information at bay viewers are forced to feel as confused as the characters fighting the way, which again comes across as both clever and frustrating.

Time travel has become an increasingly common theme over the last year, including the recently released X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Still, in a world flooded with genre familiarity Edge Of Tomorrow finds an action-packed groove all its own that is both fun and largely thrilling, thanks in no small part to the entertaining performances of its leads. Emily Blunt deserves bigger and better roles, which I have a feeling this film will allow her to have should audiences support a non-sequel film at the box office, but either way we can all agree Tom Cruise will be perfectly fine. He knows how to pick great material, and Edge of Tomorrow is further proof his brand is as strong as ever in Hollywood.

Score: B+

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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