We've all experienced bad days — the kind where you wreck your car, find out you've lost your job, and have your wallet stolen, all before lunchtime. But imagine if you had to relive that same bad day again and again, like a broken record that won't stop playing? And imagine if it wasn't just an ordinary bad day — what if you had to experience the same terrifying, living hell over and over and over?
That's the trap Tom Cruise's character finds himself in during "Edge of Tomorrow," a surprisingly clever and entertaining sci-fi action film that manages to blend elements of "Groundhog Day" and "Saving Private Ryan" while still feeling refreshing and original.
In the film, Earth has been invaded by a race of highly intelligent aliens known as "Mimics." Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a PR officer in the military who knows a lot about propaganda but little about actual combat. When he refuses a risky assignment that involves recording footage during an assault, he is demoted to the rank of private and forced to serve as an ordinary soldier during the battle.
Unsure of how to even turn off the safety on his weapon, Cage knows he has little hope of surviving. He doesn't last long on the beaches of Normandy and experiences a quick, traumatizing death. However, that's not actually a spoiler, because Cage isn't dead for long. He abruptly wakes up and realizes he's been transported back in time to the day before the battle. He's sent back to the beaches of Normandy, where he dies again, and then wakes up, then dies again, and then wakes up, in a seemingly endless cycle.
However, Cage gradually learns how to use this time loop to his advantage, and each time he's sent back to the battle, he's able to survive a little longer. He also meets Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the symbolic head of the war effort who has a mysterious understanding of Cage's new powers and a belief that those powers just might hold the key to winning the war.
Regardless of how you feel about Tom Cruise as a person, as an actor he never turns in a half-hearted performance. Though his character is usually the fearless action hero, he allows himself to play against type here — Cage starts off as a coward who gradually becomes a skilled soldier. He lets Emily Blunt steal the show as the tough, smart, but also world-weary Vrataski. There's also a fun cast of character actors who fill out the ragtag unit of soldiers who help Cage and Vrataski on their mission, and Bill Paxton is great as the master sergeant who is determined to make sure Cage learns his lesson.
I really liked the CGI effects in the film. The battle scenes look realistic; they're chaotic enough to feel authentic, but they are clearly shot and well edited, so you can still tell what's going on. The alien culture is creative enough it doesn't feel like another one of the same alien types we're used to seeing in sci-fi films.
I was also impressed with the script. Time loops are a tricky concept to pull off, and it would have been easy for the film to become too convoluted or too repetitive. However, the film clips along at a good pace and never fails to be entertaining, and each time Cage "resets" is different enough you don't feel like you're just watching the same scene over and over. I wasn't expecting the film to include humor, but it works well and adds to the fun. I do wish film makers hadn't changed the title of the film; the book the movie is based on is called "All You Need Is Kill" — an edgier, more clever title that fits the story much better than the more generic "Edge of Tomorrow."
The film didn't bring in huge box office numbers this past weekend, which is a shame, because it's actually one of my favorite movies so far this year. I hope good word of mouth will give it a boost this weekend; it's definitely worth catching on the big screen.