Edge of Tomorrow

Directed By: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, and Brendan Gleeson

"Battle’s the great redeemer.  A fiery crucible in which the only true heroes are forged."
-Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome (Bill Paxton)

The age of movie stardom may be long dead, but Tom Cruise's career on the big screen is quite far from it.  After a career full of ups and downs in this risky business, the timeless actor still remains willing to take a gamble at the box office.  While the Internet espouses this false narrative that Cruise is making just another sci-fi film in a career full of them, I'm going to give you the truth.  Other than Oblivion, this weekend's Edge of Tomorrow is Cruise's only foray into the genre since the days of War of the Worlds and Minority Report.  Tackling this adaptation of the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill is far from a safe career choice for him.  Even as Cruise is being pigeonholed as an action star, he continues to choose ambitious, outside-the-box films, and I have nothing but respect for that.  It's what makes him one of the last true movie stars.

An alien race has invaded the Earth and poses a grave threat to mankind.  Beginning in Germany, this foreign invader devastates the vast majority of central Europe.  In the wake of their arrival, the world has united to form a global military known as the United Defense Force (UDF).  Countering all strategies used against them on the battlefield, these aliens are aptly called “Mimics”.  When mankind develops powerful weapons suits known as jackets, UDF Special Forces Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Blunt) makes a name for herself in Verdun, though not exactly a good one.  Often referred to as the "Angel of Verdun" or the "Full Metal Bitch", Rita leads the UDF to a definitive victory in Verdun, one that convinces General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) that the Mimics are nearing defeat.  For this victory, Rita becomes a symbol of the war and is seen on posters all over Europe despite how wrong the general actually is.

Brigham is launching a surprise assault on the Mimics to try to bring this conflict to an end.  If what's being called "Operation Downfall" is successful, the general realizes he will be blamed for all the body bags sent home from the beaches of France.  Media relations expert Major William Cage (Cruise) is ordered to join the troops being sent into battle to film their heroic efforts and salvage what could otherwise be a public relations nightmare.  While honored, Cage is not exactly enamored with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Mimics.  Refusing, he tries to blackmail the general.  At the end of it all, Cage ends up getting arrested and sent to the UDF base at London Heathrow airport.

Deemed a deserter and scolded as a maggot, Cage awakens to meet Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome (Paxton) on the eve of the surprise assault.  Though untrained and ill-equipped, Cage joins the infantry unit known as the J-Squad and goes into battle.  Unable to release the safety on his weaponry, Cage is killed alongside all his comrades, but not without killing one Mimic known as an Alpha before going down.  Afterward, he awakens to find himself meeting the master sergeant the day prior at Heathrow all over again.  For Cage, this horrific day in his life begins recurring.  He lives, he dies, and then he repeats it over and over again.  Eventually, Cage meets Rita on the battlefield.  Impressing her with his skill in combat, Rita sees in him something she once saw in herself.  As the two begin working together, Cage begins to learn why time seemingly stands still for him.

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, so I find it quite fitting that the film opening this weekend is about a battle that repeats over and over again on the beaches of France.  I'm sure the physical and emotional scars of this definitive battle remain in the hearts and minds of the aging veterans who made their way to Normandy to commemorate this historic occasion.  In this sense, Tom Cruise's fictional character Major William Cage can somewhat relate to these heroes.  Though with a unique sci-fi twist, Edge of Tomorrow is a film that surprisingly and deftly explores the toll that war takes over an extended period of time (despite the fact that the film takes place over the course of a single day repeated presumably several hundred or thousand times).  Director Doug Liman's latest movie is a rousing piece of blockbuster cinema that just fits on a weekend like this.

From the director's chair, Liman gives us one visual treat.  Given the fact that the Mimics resemble the sentinels from The Matrix trilogy, it's easy to arrive at the conclusion that Liman's battle sequences largely parallel the Battle at Zion in The Matrix Revolutions.  However, the dazzling special effects of today, the film's glorious cinematography, and Liman's tendency to immerse moviegoers into the film make his battle sequences a far more up close and personal cinematic experience.  I'm also a fan of Cage's dreamlike visions of the Omega as they're reminiscent of Jason Bourne's fittingly hazy memories in Liman's The Bourne Identity.  Moreover, Liman manages to make a film that repeats the same day over and over again quite captivating.  Leveraging impressive visuals, intense thrills, a heavy dosage of comedy, and some subtle romance, Liman deftly crafts some engaging popcorn cinema that hits just about every mark.

The cast also does an outstanding job.  For his part as Major William Cage, Tom Cruise does not give us our normal Tom Cruise.  He's unskilled, lacks confidence, and brings little charisma to the table (at first).  Though we still get to see him run, Cruise gives a far more nuanced, emotional performance as a conflicted, afflicted Cage.  Repeating the same day and seeing the people he knows die again and again take their toll, and Cruise brilliantly conveys this in his gut-wrenching performance.  For her part as his partner and a rather complex romantic interest Rita Vrataski, Emily Blunt shows us a new side of her that definitely intrigues me.  The frequent romantic comedy star is frankly a badass, and I like it.  I definitely look forward to seeing her in more tough roles as an action heroine.  Lastly, as the master sergeant and general respectively, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson deliver plenty of comic relief.

Given the prior month of movies targeted right at a male audience (i.e. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Neighbors, Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past) and an aging Cruise's waning influence at the box office, Edge of Tomorrow has probably drawn the short straw in terms of opening weekends. Its success or lack thereof at the box office, however, is no testament to its quality.  Doug Liman and Tom Cruise's collaboration has resulted in one inventive, captivating piece of blockbuster cinema that doesn't fit any mold.  Well acted and well directed, Edge of Tomorrow gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.