Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

 

edge of tomorrow

by Alan F. Zundel

“Edge of Tomorrow” is a science-fiction sandwich: the usual at either end, with some interesting stuff in the middle. It’s passable due to a clever plot gimmick and strong performances from stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.

The plot is a mash-up of “War of the Worlds” and “Groundhog Day,” if you can imagine that. Apparently someone could. It’s based on a 2004 Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, so he must be the guy.

The story starts with an alien invasion of Earth, with the moviemakers rationing their special effects budget by describing the invasion with quick cuts between TV news reports. I was distracted by how blasé the TV reporters seemed. You would think they’d be freaking out or something, but they treat the advance of the aliens as they would a surge in the opinion polls for Donald Trump.

U.S. Major William Cage enters the picture, played by Tom Cruise with more commitment to the role than you might expect. Cage reports to General Brigham of the United Defense Force, expecting to do some p.r. work, but instead Brigham informs him he’s going to the front to report on a big assault on the enemy. When Cage tries to blackmail Brigham to get out of the assignment, the general has him arrested and shipped to the front as a combatant.

Cage arrives at the forward base stripped of his rank and is attached to a combat company. He attempts to talk his way out of the situation but is strapped into a robotic suit and sent into battle. The CGI of the battle with the aliens is okay, but the real pleasure of this part of the movie is watching Cruise do a convincing portrayal of a coward. It’s fun watching him stumble around the battlefield in his clunky robot suit trying to escape the fighting.

It’s also fun to see him get killed. And this is where it gets interesting. Once he’s dead, he suddenly wakes up at the forward base starting the day all over again. He is again attached to his combat company, this time puzzling about how everything is repeating itself. In the battle he tries to rely on his previous experience to escape death, but ends up getting killed in another way.

He goes through a couple of cycles of this déjà vu, just like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” until he meets the famous warrior Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) on the battlefield and she tells him to come talk to her the next time he goes through the same day again. He manages to do this, and she tells him that she went through the same thing.

There is some sci-fi gobbledy-gook to explain what’s happening to Cage, but the take-away is that he and Rita have to work together repeating the same day until they can get at the alien leader. Cage’s death just means they start all over again, but what he really has to avoid is the one situation in which he can lose his magic power to come back and repeat the day.

The movie zips along as they work to win this video game of a movie, losing a little steam at the end when special effects and action scenes totally overwhelm the story. The computer effects are nothing special, but if you like this kind of stuff and don’t expect too much the movie delivers what the genre promises.

Despite having been worked on by a hodge-podge of writers, the script gets the job done. Director Doug Liman doesn’t live up to his previous highpoint with “The Bourne Identity,” but manages to keep the live-die-repeat cycle from becoming boring.

The concept is the thing in a movie like this, and it does give the movie a special kick. But what really keeps it alive are Cruise and Blunt, giving us human beings in the middle of this sci-fi stew.

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