Undeniably epic action and a strong cast make this addition to the ‘time loop’ genre worthy of its notable predecessors Groundhog Day and Source Code.
We open with Major Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) in London, where his new commanding officer General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) informs him he will be dropped on the front line of a major offensive against an invading alien race spreading across Europe. With no combat experience, Cage is terrified, and tries to blackmail his way out, but is knocked out and wakes up in cuffs at the army base with no rank and a back story saying he is a deserter. Tom Cruise’s star status has not been better utilised in his recent films than here – he is all mega-watt smiles trying to talk his way out of his predicament, and Gleeson parries ably with his deadpan delivery, though his physicality is not on par with that of his purported rank.
Placed in the ragtag J Squad, Cage spends an uncomfortable night before being thrown into battle with no knowledge or training on how to use his weaponised, mechanical armour suit. Somehow, the aliens – known as Mimics – knew that the surprise attack was coming, and the human army is massacred by the thousands.
Frighteningly unprepared, Cage dies within five minutes, but is covered with the blood of a Mimic which is distinctive in colour and size. The beach sequence (which is revisited throughout the film) is striking and gritty, and drops the audience straight into the shocking violence. The enormity of the assault and the intimacy of Cage’s experience are both kept in focus, and the top notch special effects used to augment the spectacle are imperceptibly integrated.
Cage suddenly wakes up back at the army base in cuffs, just as he did that morning. Events repeat themselves as he has already experienced them, down to the exact phrasing used by his superior Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome (Bill Paxton). Unable to get out of his predicament, Cage returns to the beach and is killed once more. Once more he wakes up, and finds himself in and endless loop, doomed to repeat the same day after his contact with the alien blood.
In one iteration, he encounters war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and saves her with his prior knowledge of the day. Identifying his power as the same one she had acquired previously, she urges him to find her when he ‘wakes up’ and so begins his training to fight the Mimics. Emily Blunt is brilliant as the propaganda poster girl for the war, composed and unemotional when training Cage but her character reveals further layers as the film and their time together progresses.
She physically matches the ever impressive Cruise and her promoted training for the film has clearly paid off – she wholly inhabits the role, and her work gives reason to hope she may lead her own action films in future. Paxton too is great, and his sarcasm when dealing with Cage’s claims of time looping provides much of the film’s humour.
Cage has to try to stay in the loop until they can end the alien invasion once and for all, which means ensuring that he dies every time he is injured.
The philosophical musings on mortality which the screenwriters have embedded into the script are surprisingly thoughtful. His apparent immortality weighs on Cage, and the character’s weariness at his almost godlike prescience is woven through the script and his interactions with people he has seen die innumerable times.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is a great blockbuster, boasting heart and lots of action, coupled with an accomplished team both in front of and behind the camera. Director Doug Liman’s return to his action pedigree of ‘The Bourne Identity’ and ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ has yielded exciting results.
- Callum Ryan, associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
EDGE OF TOMORROW. Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson. Directed by Doug Liman. 114 minutes. Rated M (Science fiction violence and infrequent coarse language).
Warner Brothers Studios.