Truth be told, the premise for “Edge of Tomorrow” — Tom Cruise as a guy who keeps reliving the same day over and over and over as he tries to defeat an alien invasion — seemed like a joke in itself.
Because, honestly, if you look at the bulk of Cruise’s resume, especially over the last several years, they’re all kind of similar. So it’s like we’ve been reliving the same Tom Cruise movie over and over and over, where he commits gross acts of radness to defeat the aliens/spies/corrupt government officials while getting the girl. Usually things are also clean and shiny.
Plus, we’ve had a bunch of timey-wimey movies lately — “Deja Vu,” “Source Code,” not to mention the classic “Groundhog Day.”
“Edge of Tomorrow” has Cruise committing more gross acts of radness, and we’re pretty sure he gets the girl, and the day repeats over and over and over, but it actually weaves a tight story and manages to feel relatively fresh.
As the world battles an invasion of aliens, Maj. William Cage (Cruise) is doing all right. Sure, Europe is just a lost battle away from being completely conquered, but as a media relations officer, he gets to wear the uniform while staying out of the line of fire. He likes this arrangement so much that when Gen. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) orders him to report for battle duty, Cage tries to blackmail his way out of the change in assignment.
The next thing he knows, he’s waking up at a forward operating base, stripped of his rank, and assigned to be on the front lines for a last-ditch push against the invasion. He is underprepared, to say the least, and winds up running for his life on a French beach without even the faintest idea of how to disengage the safety on his weapon. He figures it out just in time to kill one alien, only to be immediately killed by another — but wakes up back at the forward operating base, 24 hours earlier, when he found out he was stripped of his rank and ordered to go on the front lines. This happens the next time he dies, and the next, and the time after that, again and again.
He finally gets a clue to what is going on when he comes across Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who made a name for herself at an earlier battle in which she single-handedly killed hundreds of aliens. Rita tells him she knows what is happening to him, because it happened to her. She instructs him to find her the next time he woke up, though she wouldn’t remember meeting him, and she would help him to find the epicenter of the invasion to stop the aliens once and for all.
The plot is confusing, especially once you get thinking about the story’s rules for time travel, but so far I haven’t found one serious plot hole, and I’ve thought about it a lot. Every question I’ve come up with had some explanation tucked in the movie, though I’ll have to watch it again to make sure.
Oh, yeah, I want to watch this one again. This almost never happens.
As complicated as the plot is, the craziest thing for me to witness was the actual character development for Cage. He is pretty unlikable and absurdly wussy to begin with, but by the end, he’s rad and capable. Cruise actually manages to pull this off. Turns out the guy can act. Who knew? Blunt’s character, by design, goes nowhere, but she does a good job maintaining the plateaued development through the shifting circumstances of Cruise’s arc. Also a nod for acting to Bill Paxton, who is virtually unrecognizable as Cage’s hard-nosed master sergeant.
Another thing “Edge of Tomorrow” has going for it is that it has fun with its concept. It is evocative of “Groundhog Day,” both in the time-looped character becoming intimately familiar with the day’s events, and in the unabashed glee it takes in killing off the character day after day, but sticks to its own material just enough to keep from seeming like a sci-fi ripoff of the comedy. It brings in a sense of weariness — for the characters, thankfully, not the audience — of fighting the same battle again and again without making progress, and the hopelessness and burden of being the only person who can end the war.
My expectations for this movie weren’t super high, but I didn’t give it a low bar to clear, either. The choices for critic screenings this week were this and “The Fault in Our Stars,” which is supposed to be awesomely heartbreaking, and I really wanted to see it. This one worked out better with my schedule, and I was a little bummed.
I’m over it now.
Time: 117 minutes