Final Rating: 8.2/10
Action movies have a bad reputation, and for good reason. To many, they are a resource of fun and escapism. To film fanatics, they’re an excess of volume, both audial and visual, that may work on distracting people from their lives but not us from their story (or lack there of). That’s why a film like Edge of Tomorrow is refreshing. Doug Liman has directed his share of awful films (Jumper, Mr and Mrs Smith) but also made Fair Game and The Bourne Identity. He’s capable of making smart movies. Edge of Tomorrow may be his smartest yet. While it does take a lot of its spunk from Groundhog Day’s premise (not as if that hasn’t been a movie that many have typically borrowed from), it does put the obvious nods out of the way and furthers the idea of revisiting one day again and again in a refreshing light. You have Tom Cruise playing William Cage, a major who is forced to fight in a war against aliens known as mimics. When he kills a species of mimic that has time traveling capabilities and has the species’ blood contaminate his own and kill him, he obtains this ability to restart his life from the last moment he woke up all over again.
They get the obvious jokes out of the way (Cage suddenly has an uncanny ability to remember everything about everyone? Weird), but the true charm of using Groundhog Day’s premise is that Liman has given many typical action cliches a purpose. You’ll find that many action films have an everyday person end up being a martial artist master for no particular reason. In this film, Cage is a horrible fighter. He isn’t even meant to fight. Because he restarts the same day over and over again, he practices and becomes a skillful fighter who can preempt any attack. As well, Liman secretly suckers those with the need for plot to see nothing but action the entire movie, as every scene is actually relevant, and he tricks those with short attention spans to paying attention to something much more complex than any average blockbuster. Cage’s ability is one that Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) had previously, so she is introduced to him every time the day is reset and she helps him a little bit further each day. Like Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors, Cage becomes infatuated by Vrataski and soon enough it becomes difficult to watch her die every day. There is a very clever use of imagery used between the scenes and the dialogue that takes advantage of the time travel aspect of this film. When Vrataski asks Cage every time she “meets” him if she has something on her face (sarcastically wondering why he believes he has any authority to talk to her) and you see shots of her dead corpse with blood splattered all over her face, you can only feel Cage’s relief that he is witnessing her alive again.
The movie works its premise over and over again with many humorous moments, mostly involving Tom Cruise’s accidental deaths. It makes the moment where he loses his ability all the more severe because we had taken his life for granted, just as he saw death as a reset button. With Cage discussing death with Vrataski, it leads us to the only partially disappointing aspect of the movie: The ending. To have the movie end so happily is a way of ending a movie that asks so many questions way too easily. You never want to be able to think of a better ending than what you are delivered with. Not that I am an expert, but here was my prediction: I imagined Cage surviving at the end and gaining the ability to wake up to the same day all over again only to find that Vrataski would always be dead and there was nothing he could do to control it (even when he kills himself out of depression and wakes up to reality all over again). To see that both characters were not just okay but able to start off on an easy step forward was a disappointment because the movie was never afraid to dive into the deep waters, so to end up on the stairs at the shallow end of a pool just made it easier to get out of the theater chair).
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Aside from that one sore point (a somewhat effortless ending, for those not wanting to read the spoilers), this movie excels at being a smart summer flick. It feels like a video game with its infinite resets of a mission, the objectives being displayed, the flashy special effects and even some of the dialogue (when you talk to characters in games and they pop up the same programmed response every time). It is funny, flashy and forward thinking. It has remarkable performances from its leads and great action sequences (all of which have a reason to be in the film aside from being interesting to look at). It may not be the absolute best it could have been, but Edge of Tomorrow still blew my expectations out of the water and is a no brainer for anyone needed a film to catch during the summer.