Thanks to Emily Blunt, “Edge of Tomorrow” Makes Its Video-Game Aesthetic Work, Until It Doesn’t

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014)

So I’m late to the party on this review, and apparently missed seeing the real box office story of the weekendThe Fault in Our Stars. I’ve been busy prepping for my upcoming radio program on Pulp Fiction and, honestly, watching Tarantino films and the blu-ray special features about his films, as well as reading Jason Bailey’s great book about Tarantino’s early years, proved far more appealing to me than going to see anything I saw offered at our nation’s multiplexes (which is why I had skipped this week’s free press screenings). Still, I always hold out hope that high-concept sci-fi films will live up to their trailers, and in spite of the dismal failure of Tom Cruise’s last alien-invasion outing, I decided to give Edge of Tomorrow a try last night (watching a sentimental film about teens dying of cancer just wasn’t in my personal “stars”). Much to my delight, I had a good time. Until the end.

science fiction films, including Edge of Tomorrow, which deal with manipulation of time, space, or both (the previous two being Looper and The Adjustment Bureau), and in all cases, she has elevated the at-times pedestrian elements of the scripts to levels of great emotional intensity. She has the gift of sincerity: when she looks a co-star in the eye, she creates a powerful connection of instant chemistry that makes this viewer ignore whatever inconsistencies might exist in the story. In both The Adjustment Bureau and Looper, we believe that the male protagonists – Matt Damon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, respectively – would risk their lives to be with her, and that drive explains their actions. Tom Cruise does a solid, upstanding job in this new film, but without Blunt the film would not work. She is that good. It’s too bad the ending is unworthy of her.

To summarize the film: Tom Cruise plays Major Cage, an army spin doctor without combat experience who finds himself on the front lines in humanity’s last stand against an invading army of metallic alien creatures we call “mimics.” With soldiers dying around him on a beach in northern France (the film’s release has been conveniently time to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the successful Allied invasion of Normandy, unless it’s just pure coincidence), Cage kills a giant mimic just as it kills him, and is completely covered in its blood as all goes to black. Suddenly, he wakes up at the start of the previous day. For everyone else in the film, tomorrow hasn’t happened yet, but he remembers everything (the alien blood has done this to him, and you’ll just have to watch the film to learn why). And so begins a Groundhog Day-like scenario, which many reviewers are also comparing to a video game (you know, there are guns and aliens), where Cage repeats the same day thousands of times, each time getting closer to killing the central alien brain-creature (these are hive-like monsters). Along the way, he meets Rita (Blunt), also known as “Full Metal Bitch” and the “Angel of Verdun” who is the spiritual figurehead of the armed forces, having previously killed an entire alien horde almost single-handedly (at Verdun, hence her nickname). It turns out that she, too, once, had had the same time-reset gift, though she has now lost it (again, you’ll need to see the movie to learn why), and is the only one who believes in Cage’s power. Together, they are . . . Humanity’s. Last. Hope.

Snarkiness aside, the premise works, and both Cruise and Blunt seem to be having a great time. Even though the film is about the end of the world, there is a sense of humor to their scenes together that helps lighten the mood. Whenever things start to go wrong, Rita’s favorite way to start over is to shoot Cage in the head, which, gruesome as that sounds, does make for a very funny montage. The action scenes are well-staged, the CGI is appropriate and not distracting (with decent creature design), and there is enough doubt about who will ultimately survive to keep us on the “edge” of our seats. And the film even has the perfect bittersweet conclusion, which it then, unfortunately, ignores in favor of a completely unbelievable and illogical happy ending that feels as it had been mandated by studio test-screenings where the audience was unhappy with the original outcome. That said, until those final five minutes, you’ll find yourself watching a superior action thriller (Doug Liman, the director, also gave us the terrific The Bourne Identity and the very watchable Mr. & Mrs. Smith) starring two appealing actors buoyed by the chemistry that Blunt brings to everything she does. Enjoy.

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