Edge of Tomorrow - Review


Blockbuster actor Tom Cruise has had a hard time with sci-fi stories for the last couple of years. Seeing that War of the Worlds as well as Oblivion only qualified as being weak to okay experiences, Cruise's last truely memorable sci-fi movie dates back to 2002's Minority Report.
Even though production values on Tom Cruise-vehicle flicks are always very high, the story was often fairly lackluster and left much to be desired.
With his new attempt in the form of Edge of Tomorrow, the  sci-fi story adapted from the Japanese manga "All You Need is Kill" offers much potential.
Now, is said potential effectively taken advantage of in the final movie, or is this another futuristic disappointment from Tom Cruise?   

The plot:
An alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Major William Cage ( Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again...and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). And, as Cage and Vrataski take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.
Source: Twentieh Century Fox 

Since it's pretty much impossible for Tom Cruise to actually die in any of his movies, alone through this fact, Edge of Tomorrow's "Groundhog Day-like" time loop premise promises to be quite something different.
Whereas time travel plots are fairly common in sci-fi movies to this very day, time loops are of a different kind and are rarely tackled due to the danger of the viewer's feeling exhausted by the repeating events. Only few time loop movies manage to really stick out. And there, it's easy to say that Edge of Tomorrow grants itself a respectable spot next to Bill Murray's classic "Groundhog Day".

With that said, Edge of Tomorrow is a very blockbuster-ish sci-fi movie best described as a mix of Starship Troopers and Groundhog Day.
Along with expected numerous action blockbuster aspects like explosions, set-piece moments and alien battles galore, what makes Edge of Tomorrow stand out as a movie is for the most part its great balance between serious tones and comedic elements, which serve as quite something as a surprise.

"That was fun. Wanna do it again?"

Firstly, Edge of Tomorrow isn't your "typical" Tom Cruise flick as it doesn't intially pose the actor into the role of a super skilled soldier but rather the opposite. Despite being a Major, Tom Cruise's character of William Cage is far more of a PR man than a soldier and hasn't witnessed one day of military combat himself. Through his resulting continuous tries of weaseling his way out of getting dropped into the warzone, Cruise's character succesfully manages to become a non-typical "accidental hero" throughout the course of the movie, which is quite something different for a Tom Cruise driven action movie.
And even though scenes with Cruise trying to sneak his way out of dangerous situations make for some nice comedic moments, these moments are put into great and effective contrast when we get our first sights of the actual alien-vs-human warzones.

The battlefront, in which Cruise's character Cage struggles to survive and fight, yet ultimately always dies (and therefore has to repeat the attack over and over again), pays a lot of tribute to the Normandy landings during WWII. The chaos and despair in the heat of the war is excellently depicted in those scenes and the aliens, called Mimics, really come off as an unbeatable force of nature, with superspeed that seemingly can't be efficiently countered.

Serious D-Day flashbacks ahead!
Yet still, it's only when Cruise gets "trapped" in a time loop when the real center story of the movie kicks in.
Cage notices that each time he dies, he wakes up at the start of the very same fateful day of the battle. Much like in Groundhog Day, Cage taking advantage of this "reset button through death" is not only what makes the movie funny but also what makes it tragic.
While it's immensely fun to watch Cage simply test out how various different behaviours and actions of his change the same situations in different ways, it's even more comedic to see how frustrated and, after a while, even annoyed Cage gets when he has to repeat the same things over and over again to get to a certain part (much like trial and error in video games).
Death therefore becomes more of an annoyance and obstacle in the movie rather than an end.
Yet, repeating such a disastrous day of course isn't really what Cage considers a positive gift and therefore desperately tries to change its outcome and prevent his comrades deaths after the mostly comedically oriented first act of the movie.

Even though the premise of repeating the same fateful day over and over again might sound tiresome at first for some viewers, director Doug Liman did a very good job in avoiding this and making the movie's pace and flow remarkably satisfying to watch.
Through the help of a great sense of narration and editing, that expertely skips tiresome parts of the time loop and focuses on only the important aspects of Cage's continous loops of the very same day, the story itself never truely feels like its looping but rather that it gradually moves forward.
Due to this, and resulting montages of Cage trying out various outcomes of situations, it gets to a point where it's not even clear how many times Cage actually went through the loop and therefore how much he knows (related to the various choices and situations he must have eventually tried out).
This causes a great feel of suspense in the movie, where the movie simply does not reveal if Cage experienced or knows specific elements of the day before.
The theme of truely "getting lost" in a time loop is therefore remarkably emphasized through this way of storytelling in Edge of Tomorrow.

One bad day for a coward...or should I say days?

However, despite its numerous elements that refreshen the sci-fi genre to a respectable extent, Edge of Tomorrow is still a movie whose primary goal is not to give ways to deeper meanings but to entertain as a blockbuster movie. And in that sense, it unfortunately nevertheless boasts a good share of very standard story elements in the form of plot conveniences and an uninspired clicheed climax.

Aside from let alone the fact that another soldier, who experienced the same time loop phenomenon himself, Rita, is posed as Cage's "exposition heavy" partner, it's kind of disappointing their ultimate plan to destroy the Mimics turns out to be extremely underwhelming and doesn't result in more than a "seek and destory" mission strategy.
Without giving anything away, considering that the movie's premise was so well played out, with Cage playing around with his powers and getting trained through Rita, the movie loses a lot of drive and becomes sadly a bit uninvesting in the final showdown and ending of the movie.
Whereas this does nowhere in the least mean that the movie's climax and ending are anything that will destroy your entire experience, they just come off as nothing nearly as interesting or special as the movie's premise lead us to expect. The ending therefore sort of feels like a missed opportunity.

A true victory? - No. But still pretty good.

But, as already said, Edge of Tomorrow wants to entertain, and in the sum of all things, it does it very well.
Alongside well delivered and witty humor, Edge of Tomorrow's set pieces and action are also full of high production values, greatly choreographed and simply fun to watch.
Especially when Rita starts to train Cage in a deadly training chamber, watching Cage suffer through the training procedures and Rita killing him over and over again when he fatally injures himself, is darkly comedic and leads way to Cage improving his skills for bigger action scenes to come.
The constantly lived through "D-Day like"-attack on the Mimics becomes almost like a piece of cake for Cage, who (even though not untouchable) manages to efficiently fight his way through the Mimics in style and improve their chances of defeating the alien threat.

Cage and the other soldiers fight in big exoskeleton mech suits against the Mimics. While the giant mech suits, looking much like a mix of the Elysium exoskeletons and the Aliens mech suit, are a great display of practical effects, the aliens, Mimics, on the other hand feature interesting designs executed through CGI.
Though it's a bit disappointing that the Mimics in Edge of Tomorrow once again follow the Hollywood trend of "aliens with tentacles", especially their ability to dig under the ground, attack extremely fast and use time travel to improve their attack strategies makes them overall interesting enough to avoid feeling cookie-cutterish and like an actual threat to humanity.

Shit has to get done? Who you gonna call? - Full Metal Bitch!

Actingwise, Edge of Tomorrow's cast delivers very solid to good performances.
Expectedly, the movie is largely focussed on Tom Cruise, who nevetheless, and after years and years of experience, manages to succesfully carry the weight of most of the movie on his shoulders.
It's most notably his depiction of the at first cowardly William Cage slowly turning into a hero, which makes his role in Edge of Tomorrow stand out among other usual Tom Cruise movies.
Whereas Emily Blunt's character of the badass soldier Rita resembles more of an action hero figure that we are used to in such movies, it's great to see her helping out the initially helpless Cage and be a key figure in his character development.
Sadly though, her character takes quite a backseat to Cage after training him. Cage's skills in fighting as well as his significance for the war's outcome after a while have reached such a certain point, from which her character more or less becomes insignificant.
The movie nevertheless tries to artificially carry her importance through the final act by establishing a rather forced romance sub-plot between Cage and Rita. Yet, aside from being pretty clichee for action blockbusters right from the get go, the romance feels pretty underdeveloped, shoved-in and simply unnecessary, especially considering the high stakes of humanity's survival/extinction, which the two protagonists should rather focus on.

Other than that, there are not many other actors' performances to note, due to the heavy focus on Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise...except for Bill Paxton as a gritty, yet funny, military Sergeant...and Bill Paxton is always awesome in a such roles (for reference: Aliens).  

And then there is Bill Paxton...and he's always awesome.

Edge of Tomorrow is a full-on sci-fi blockbuster, simply there to entertain, and in that sense, it reaches it's goal.
With the premise of Tom Cruise being trapped in a time loop as a cowardly "accidental hero", the movie efficiently manages to blend witty humor together with greatly depicted action set-pieces.
Despite the movie's theme of time loops, the repeated situations in Edge of Tomorrow never feel tiresome, due to great narration, editing and pacing. Several same situations are played out with different outcomes yet never shown in their entire length, making the movie only show you what you actually want to see and therefore keep a dynamic pace and making the overall story itself never loop but move forward.
Whereas most notably the first two acts of the movie stand out as being very engaging and fun, sadly the final act and ending of the movie very obviously fall back into clicheed sci-fi blockbuster conventions, which make them feel a bit uninvesting and like missed opportunities in such an otherwise promising and entertaining movie.

Edge of Tomorrow is far away from turning the sci-fi genre on its head or delivering deep messages through its story, yet nevertheless, looking at the sum of things, it's a respectably well done and efficiently entertaining sci-fi blockbuster, whose time loop theme makes for a great mix of humor and action.
It's one of the most pleasant surprises of this movie year thus far.

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10 

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