In most sci-fi action films in which aliens try to conquer the Earth, the hero is a strapping young lad with an accurate trigger finger who saves the day. But in Edge Of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise plays a older, un-strapping lad with no combat skills who, thanks a looping time mechanic, becomes an unlikely hero…who, of course, saves the day. But while you know where this is going, how it gets there and what it does along the way might surprise you.
Loosely based on the 2004 sci-fi novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and set in the not-so-distant future, Edge Of Tomorrow follows a cowardly Army publicist named Major William Cage (Cruise) as he’s forced to fight in a counter-offensive against alien invaders. But when he dies after killing one of the aliens, he wakes up back where he was a day before the battle, a pattern he repeats over and over as he uses this time loop to improve his fighting skills in hopes of destroying the aliens.
The thing is, while you may think you’ve seen this movie before (nudge, nudge), you haven’t. Well, not entirely. Look, we all know Cruise will save the day, he always does, but how he does isn’t entirely telegraphed, and you may not see some of it coming. Which isn’t to say this gets outlandish or anything, just that it’s not a cliché as it could’ve been (thankfully).
More importantly, the process he goes through to get there is really entertaining. Sure, part of it is a montage-ish training scene, sans the crappy ’80s song, but it’s rather entertaining to watch Cruise can smacked around on his way to becoming a bad ass.
This is not the only way in which Edge Of Tomorrow may surprise you. Take the casting of Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt, both of whom play against type. While Cruise is usually the strapping hero I alluded to before, here he starts off as a real coward, a man who not only doesn’t want to fight, but couldn’t if he tried. And yet, he’s totally believable in this role, in part because he really plays up that signature laugh and toothy smile of his at just the right moments, which really does sell him as a cowardly PR guy.
Similarly, while Blunt isn’t thought of as an action hero, having never done one of these kinds of films before, here she uses her typically hard-edged on-screen personality to great effect, and comes across completely believable as a totally cold bad ass. It’s kind of like how the lovely and seemingly dainty Keira Knightley became a real ass kicker in 2005’s Domino and the Pirates Of The Caribbean flicks.
More importantly, Cruise and Blunt work well together, playing off each other nicely. Which does, unfortunately, lead where you expect, though again not totally in the way you think. After all, only Cruise is reliving the same days over and over.
You might also be surprised at how often Edge Of Tomorrow gets funny. Or rather, you might be surprised as how Edge Of Tomorrow gets funny, as the humor is, refreshingly, totally genuine. It’s not action movie funny, where people say obviously scripted, groan-inducing, wannabe catch phrases, and it’s not bad comedy movie funny where people spout quips from other movies and Internet memes or obviously well-rehearsed jokes that no one would ever come up with off-the-cuff. Instead, the funny bits in Edge Of Tomorrow are honestly (and rather darkly) funny comments, ones that real people would say in these situations, and realistically humorous moments that, again, would actually happen in these instances.
Seriously, I cannot commend script writers Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), Jez Butterworth (Fair Game), and John-Henry Butterworth (also Fair Game) for not only writing a peppy, entertaining screenplay, but for showing the restraint to not insert a lot of bad one-liners.
Which isn’t to say that Edge Of Tomorrow is a comedy. It’s not. It’s just a darkly funny sci-fi action movie.
Of course, being a sci-fi action flick, the action is also a big part of Edge Of Tomorrow. And while the battles aren’t as spectacularly huge as the fight scenes in the new Godzilla, they’re still really well done, as director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) goes for a more realistic approach akin to those in something like Saving Private Ryan, but with the scope of something like The Lord Of The Rings.
As much fun as I had watching Edge Of Tomorrow, there were a couple sore spots. First, I wish the aliens were better looking. Not every alien can be as cool as the alien in, uh, Alien, of course, and I did like how they spun around a lot, but I do wish they hadn’t looked so much like the sentinels in The Matrix movies.
Also, don’t see Edge Of Tomorrow in 3D. Besides not taking advantage of the third dimension by having things fly at you, even though there are plenty of things flying around, the added depth actually makes the movie look worse. At times, the 3D makes characters in the foreground look disconnected from the background, almost like bad green screen. It’s kind of like how, if you saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D and 48fps, there were times when it looked like the dwarves were standing on a cheap set.
Lastly, if you’re a fan of the original novel, you might want to leave your copy at home, as Edge Of Tomorrow takes the basic idea of the book and runs with it. Cruise’s character is nothing like the hero of the novel, and while All You Need Is Kill has the same aliens, time looping, power suits, and major plot point, that plot plays out in very different ways.
That said, as someone who read and enjoyed the novel, I didn’t mind the changes at all. They’re smart, work well, and were clearly made with the story in mind. And while I was worried about Cruise being the hero, the changes to his character made it work. In a way — and maybe I’m just making this comparison because the book’s author is Japanese — but it kind of reminds me how the animes of Akira and Ghost In The Shell changed things from their respective mangas, which weren’t better, nor worse, just different and just as good.
Though, let’s be honest: Edge Of Tomorrow is as terrible a name for this as All You Need Is Kill (I guess Sci-Fi Groundhog Day With Emily Blunt Showing Time Traveling Tom Cruise How To Kick Ass wouldn’t fit on a marquee). Good thing the movie itself is much better.