(dir. Doug Liman)
“How many times have we been here?”
Hostile forces have attacked the world. They’ve destroyed our landmarks, depleted our resources, and pushed us to use desperate measures. The military can’t save us; they don’t even know where to start. Our only hope? Tom Cruise. If any of this sounds familiar it’s because it is. Edge of Tomorrow mashes together a lot of ideas that have been executed in other movies, while still managing to be an entertaining ride.
Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a cowardly spokesman for the U.S. military who convinces others to join the fight against alien invaders, Mimics, while he avoids entering the fight himself. After attempting to blackmail General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) in order to prevent being sent to the front lines, Cage finds himself stripped of his title and forced to serve as a grunt with J-Squad. Cage, labeled a coward and harassed by his fellow soldiers and Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), is forced onto the front lines in France with a metal exo-skeleton he barely knows how to use. After an encounter with a Mimic, Cage dies only to find himself back with J-Squad on the day before the battle but he can remember dying and everything that happened before. The time loop he’s caught in brings him in contact with Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), known as the Angel of Verdun, the only one who understands what’s happening to him. With her help Cage must go from a coward to a solider, one capable of ending the war against the Mimics.
What works best for the film is its sense of humor early on. The time loop allows for some entertaining gags involving Cage’s ability to die and wake up twenty-four hours prior. Though the film recycles footage to achieve the effects of the time loop it avoids becoming repetitive primarily because of Cruise and Paxton’s comedic timing. It’s in the more serious moments that occur as the story proceeds where the film begins to falter slightly and recycle elements from the past thirty years of science-fiction films without enough of a twist to make them surprising. The Mimics, while visually interesting, are susceptible to the same weakness that nearly every alien in the past five years has had which eliminates the threat level somewhat. There’s a notable similarity to some of James Cameron’s earlier films at points, as well as some shots Michael Bay would be proud to claim.
Doug Liman, whose previous credits include The Bourne Identity, Jumper, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, once again proves his knack for directing action scenes. Despite moments of predictability, there is never a dull moment in the film. Edge of Tomorrow is well directed, but not visionary. It’s smartly written but doesn’t say anything. Edge of Tomorrow prescribes to the Hollywood formula and twenty or thirty years ago that would have been enough to generate a global sensation.
Much has been made about the reasons behind film’s disappointing box-office returns and who’s to blame. Is it Tom Cruise? Is it overcrowded summer movie season? Do audiences reject original concepts? Audiences don’t reject original concepts because there are no original concepts; there are only the right combinations of familiar elements made to feel unfamiliar. We live in a time where CGI aliens, robotic exo-skeletons, and Tom Cruise simply aren’t enough anymore. That combination of elements feels too familiar right now. But Hollywood is caught in a time loop itself and what doesn’t work now will likely someday work again. Edge of Tomorrow is a competent film, but for one of the year’s few original sci-fi offerings, it just doesn’t feel that original at the moment.