“God almighty, in a few short hours we will be in battle with the enemy. We do not join battle afraid. We do not ask favors or indulgence but ask that, if You will, use us as Your instrument for the right and an aid in returning peace to the world. We do not know or seek what our fate will be. We ask only this, that if die we must, that we die as men would die, without complaining, without pleading and safe in the feeling that we have done our best for what we believed was right.”
–Lt. Col. Robert L. Wolverton, commanding officer of 3rd battalion, 506th PIR.
A first glance, a sci-fi summer blockbuster doesn’t seem like the right choice to be released on the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. But despite the somewhat goofy premise of a soldier being forced to relive the same day over and over while battling aliens, this works as a tribute of sorts. It’s not “Saving Private Ryan” or “Band of Brothers,” but it’s an interesting twist on history.
The epic action of “Edge of Tomorrow” unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again…and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy. (Synopsis by Warner Bros.)
Thankfully, the “Groundhog Day” gag of reliving the same day doesn’t wear as thin as you think it would. Say whatever you want about Tom Cruise—he gives a project everything he has and he sells this premise better than any other actor could. Granted, at this point he has this character archetype down to a science—he is meticulously good at these roles, to the point that you forget you are watching Tom Cruise and start seeing him as Major William Cage. There are enough gentle adjustments to the story to help him keep the premise on track. Toward the end, once we escape from the time loop, the story starts to drag into overly-familiar action trope territory. But even then, Cruise hams it up enough to keep the audience with him.
The premise is directly lifted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel “All You Need Is Kill.” (So if you are wondering why they chose the awful title “Edge of Tomorrow,” you can rest assured the original choice was much worse.) Coupled with a strong screenwriting team of Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (“Fair Game”), there is a significantly stronger backbone to this film than first appears. Doug Liman honed his director skills on two of the “Bourne” movies and has mastered the careful art of balancing action, dialogue, and drama. The biggest flaw is that the love story between Cage and Vrataski seems tacked on and never quite works the way they intended.
Surprisingly, the first battle sequence (a fantasized Normandy-esque invasion), is extremely well done. If you remove the historical context and the limitations of a PG-13 rating, it rivals the opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan” on sheer scale and ambition. Unfortunately, that is probably the only selling point to seeing this on an IMAX screen. The 3D is a complete waste and was not noticeable in any significant way—except when they did the “alien flying out of the screen” schtick, a technique annoying that it should be illegal. Seeing this on a standard screen without the goofy glasses will be as good as experience, so save yourself a couple bucks.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. Tom Cruise as Maj. William Cage fumbling around and asking Emily Blunt to sleep with him goes exactly how I would expect it to go in real life.
THREE STARS out of four.
Directed by Doug Liman
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.
Runtime: 1 hour and 53 mins.