We were always slightly excited for Tom Cruise's Groundhog Day-meets-Starship Troopers movie Edge of Tomorrow, but we had no idea it was this good! We've seen Edge of Tomorrow and it is spectacular fun. Here's our (practically spoiler-free) first impressions.
Based of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel All You Need Is Kill, if you've seen the latest trailer, you know the gist. The world has been invaded by the slightly Matrix Sentinel-like alien race dubbed the Mimics. Why they are called this and what they want is never explained, but suffice to say they are bad guys and we are good guys and we need to kill them. So we're in a war and readying the biggest battle of them all. It's an international all-hands-on-deck attack and it's allegedly going to win the war for us. But when the troops try and storm the beach, it's a total slaughter. It's like the aliens knew they were coming, because they did. Unbeknownst to the humans, the Mimics have the power to reset time. Tom Cruise finds this out when he kills one of them and bonds with the alien's special blood. Now he too has the power to reset his day.
This is your typical Groundhog Day rule set. BUT the difference between Edge of Tomorrow and all the other repeater tropes is you can only reset the day by dying. So we get to see Tom Cruise die. A lot.
And that is the most spoiler-free premise I can give you. It's slightly more complicated than that, but not really.
The Good Tom Cruise Is Back!
I am sick and tired of watching Tom Cruise punching bad guys and riding a motorcycle. Sick of it. The latest crop of Cruise films have all been some sort of meandering variation of this. Well, NOT ANYMORE. Edge of Tomorrow is delivering quality, Jerry Maguire-level Cruise. A lot of this is due to the fact that the character Cruise is playing (Cage) is a coward, but a smart coward.
In order to avoid the war with the Mimics, Cage uses his advertising skills and ROTC background, spinning the defense policies, ideas and tactics to the masses. He's a talking head. But when Cage is told that they need his camera crew and smiling face on the front lines giving the folks at home inspirational images, he refuses. In response, he's busted down to a private and sent off to the front lines anyway, without his officer's status and without his camera crew to protect him. Needless to say, he's a shit soldier, and it's magnificent. It's like watching the cast of a morning show get thrown into a war zone. This tanned, smiling cheeseball who can't do anything other than reiterate buzzwords is thrown into hell. Every day for the rest of his life.
Watching Tom Cruise fail at being a badass is a joy. There's no mugging for the camera, and thankfully no camera-panning abs moment. Instead you see Cage losing his mind, screaming at the top of his lungs, clawing into the ground and running around begging other soldiers to tell him how to turn his safety off. It works because of his total commitment to the character. Plus, it helps that at his heart, Cage is a good person. He doesn't want to die, and he doesn't want others to die. Even though he's garbage at it, he attempts to save the people around him.
From there, you're watching him grow. It's a very simple emotional journey and it makes it very easy to root for him. "Get better at being a soldier, figure out the plan, don't fuck up." That's not to say he doesn't have his cheat days, or "fuck it all, I'm stuck in hell" days. And those are really good days, too.
I wouldn't have wanted any other actor in this part—Cruise really just nails the balance of badass and coward. Yes, Tom Cruise is really, really, really good at hanging out of a car and blowing up alien Mimics, but he's also wonderfully entertaining and captivating not doing that stuff as well.
Emily Blunt Kicks Ass
Emily Blunt has never really kicked all that much ass before. Yes, she wielded a mean shotgun in Looper, and held it well, but we've never seen her kill a bunch of aliens with a goddamn giant sword before. Turns out she is good at it, really good at it. Blunt rolls in as the much-hyped super-soldier Rita, whose fight at a past battle set her up as a Victory Symbol. How did she kill so many aliens? She was also blessed with the same alien repeater thing that Cage has, and naturally she becomes Cage's ally. Together, they kill a lot of aliens. And each other. A lot.
Rita is a great female heroine, mainly because she doesn't have time for anything other than her job. She is a soldier, and she's smart. Yes, of course she's a love interest, but it is tucked away in the third act. The weight of her time on-screen is spent trying to kill aliens and be smart with the repeater gift that Cage was given. Even when she finds herself connecting with Cage, the second she gets the hint that they're going off-mission she pulls them back in the right direction. She's tough, built like a brick shit house, and she gets to shoot Tom Cruise in the head like 45 times. It's amazing. Cage may be the pizzazz, but Rita is the brawn. She's also wonderfully multidimensional, and you can see damage she faced in her own time cycle of hell.
Not Trying To "Save The Girl"
"I can't stop you from dying" definitely pops up in this film, but it isn't the crux of the movie. My biggest worry about this film was that Cage would spend his cycle just trying to save the girl over and over, only to realize he can't. Fortunately, that is just not that important in Edge of Tomorrow. It's definitely something Cage and Rita struggle with, but it's just another stumble down a longer path.
High-Quality Videogame Action
Speaking of this path, the plotting and action that accompanies it is probably the best thing about this movie next to the Cage character. Yes, we repeat the same day over and over. Yes, Cage gets really good at calling shots and knowing when things are coming (make a left now, shoot here). But Edge of Tomorrow is very much plotted out like a videogame (in a great way). You have tasks that have to be accomplished. And when Cage accomplishes them, he learns something new. Then we take off from that spot. When he fails, it's like failing at a level. We very rarely go back and watch the whole thing all over again, and it certainly doesn't all take place at this singular battle. When Cage gets information he can use and dies, he and Rita move forward.
This is mostly due to the high pacing that director Doug Liman set. Clearly this man knows how to make an action movie, he established this with his long, successful run directing and producing the Bourne franchise. Liman brings the breakneck (NON SHAKYCAM), information-gathering speed with him to Edge of Tomorrow. And it works.
Oh god, is this movie self-aware. There are so many wonderful action movie moments. Cocked shotguns, people whispering to the training warrior, a very angry Bill Paxton as a Southern Master Sergeant who speaks in ridiculous platitudes (Paxton is a total delight), and of course the misfit squad of weirdos and roughnecks that Cage gets attached to. It ticks off a ton of action army movie checklist boxes that you want to see but don't want to spend a lot of time with. Happily, you don't.
It Knows You're An Adult
We've all seen Groundhog Day; we know how this works. Good? Good. When Cage and Rita get information, we move forward, no overexplaining. It treats the audience with respect. Even when it throws completely nonsensical "I invented this device, now you have to go free it from this safe in the guy-that-hates-you office" plots at you, it doesn't even attempt to explain it too much. It's just another level you need to pass.
The Alien's Motivation
The Mimics are very cool looking. I'll give them that, and they have a pretty simple hierarchy, but man, I have absolutely no idea what they want, who they are and how they fight. The aliens appear to be able to bury themselves, which leads to a lot of "oh holy shit, it just popped out of the ground," but these moments aren't really earned.
The Mimics are really just big things that you have to shoot or blow up so you can get to the next level and learn the next thing. They really have no personality or soul or even fighting style. They appear to kill by waving their tentacles around? And they move so fast that it's hard to really feel the threat unless the humans are also on a car or plane that is also moving that fast.
Where Are We?
This movie is set in Europe, but man, it goes everywhere! Parts of Germany, London proper, the English countryside, some sort of beach, Paris. The whole world becomes a sort of weird muddle. It's hard to follow and even more complicated when you really think about it. So it's really best not to.
SEE THIS MOVIE. GO AND SEE THIS MOVIE IMMEDIATELY. Edge of Tomorrow is just a goddamn delight. I felt alive and pumped when I left the theater, and so did the other batch of critics who followed me. I want to see it again, right now. You will have fun.