Breakneck 'Edge of Tomorrow' Gets the Blood Pumping

Tom Cruise shows a new side in the reality-bending alien invasion flick: scared.

(Warner Brothers)
(Warner Brothers)

Long story short: Edge of Tomorrow is an idea film, and although many of the ideas have been done before, it's consistently thrilling as a pulse pounding adventure with real urgency.

Edge of Tomorrow will remind you of: Groundhog Day, Source Code, Saving Private Ryan, Aliens, The Matrix: Revolutions, Children of Men, Elysium, Avatar

Review: Home again amongst a hail storm of bullets, Tom Cruise does what he does best in director Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow. The film is a veritable white-knuckler, progressing gradually—like jumping levels in a video game—until the hero reaches the final boss. Cruise leads the way, summoning both his charm and his reckless physicality in a role that's his best in about 10 years. 

As Edge of Tomorrow begins, William Cage (Cruise) appears as a talking head across various networks extolling the virtues of the United Defense Force, the futuristic last line against an alien horde invading Earth called "Mimics." He's a company man, an ex-advertising executive who tries to blackmail a General (Brendan Gleeson) after he's issued orders to fight on the front lines in Europe. Cruise is made for these scenes. He employs that old Jerry Maguire million dollar smile and it's a welcome change of pace seeing him trying to avoid a fight rather than instigate one. 

Cruise's versatility is a big reason to like Edge of Tomorrow but there are many others. Thrown into the lion's den, Cage departs for the front. He gets strapped into the military's latest weapon, a bionic suit that makes him super powerful. But he's got no clue what he's doing and can't turn the safety off. Soon he's being dropped from a helicopter into a hellish scene that makes the invasion of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan look like Beach Blanket Bingo. "Nightmare" is too tame a word. So what happens? Cage is killed, of course. A razor-toothed Mimic gets the drop on him, but Cage finds a claymore at the last second and detonates it, killing himself and the Mimic who explodes in a bloody mess.

Breakneck 'Edge of Tomorrow' Gets the Blood Pumping
(Warner Brothers)

Immediately, Cage wakes up 24 hours in the past. He's killed a certain kind of Mimic and its blood has given him the power to "reset" — every time Cage dies, he travels back in time to the beginning of this one fateful day, the scariest day imaginable. It's one thing to follow Bill Murray in Groundhog Day as he keeps waking up to those idiotic radio DJs and laugh at his insane situation, but Edge of Tomorrow presents another kind of problem. Both films use a reset plot device but Edge has a chilling scenario: How do you face sure death again and again? Watching Cruise do it is a big part of why the movie begins so well. He's scared beyond belief. A fellow soldier tells him there's a dead man in his suit. But every death gives him more experience and, like Murray in Groundhog Day, who learns French and memorizes every detail of Punxsutawney, Cage knows where every Mimic is, where every attack will come from, and most importantly, where Rita Vrataski is.

Vrataski (Emily Blunt), nicknamed "The Angel of Verdun" for her exploits in humanity's lone victory against the Mimics, and "Full Metal Bitch" for her stunning ferocity on the battlefield, is Earth's greatest fighter. Her image adorns busses and the sides of buildings and, on this fateful day, Cage finds her and watches her die. But in a reset, he manages to save her and Rita tells him she once had the same power which is how she was able to dominate in Verdun. She lost the ability after a transfusion, but she tells Cage to find her next reset. He does and the two begin a training regimen to make Cage a real fighter. He has visions of the alien "Omega," the central hive mind of the Mimics. If Cage and Rita can get to the Omega and kill it, they can end the war.

Breakneck 'Edge of Tomorrow' Gets the Blood Pumping
(Warner Brothers)

Edge of Tomorrow presents a ton of ideas thanks to its script, based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The reset sequences are all visualized spectacularly by Liman and crew. Cruise is spastic as he's killed a dozen different ways. Every time, he's scared to death and every time he shows it as he wakes up with a jolt. The way Edge of Tomorrow borrows different sci-fi ideas and repurposes them reminds me of last year's Hunger Games: Catching Fire. You'll recognize a lot of details from other movies: the reset concept, the bionic suit (Aliens, Avatar, Elysium), the hive mind (dozens of films, Pacific Rim, Ender's Game just last year). There's a lot to be said for originality, but it's hard to resist the sheer amount of cool shit going on in Edge of Tomorrow. It's simply fun to sit back and watch.

The fun of the film doesn't detract from its intensity either. The film pushes onward with real momentum and the urgency is turned up a notch from scene to scene. Liman establishes a relaxed, kind of surreal tone as Cage gathers his wits before heading off to fight for the first time. But then all hell breaks loose. Cage is dropped in the crossfire and suddenly Liman gets serious. He follows Cage with fantastic tracking shots that show insane action in each frame. Mimics blast humans all over the place with fiery bolts of energy. Smoky contrails zig zag through the sky and bullets hiss with furious danger. The Mimics themselves are just as impressive. They move with incredible speed, rolling like supersonic tumbleweeds, their flailing tentacles zapping soldiers at every angle. 

Edge of Tomorrow isn't perfect, its final act devolves into garden variety action/adventure, but it's a fitting conclusion to a kinetic film that never stops trying to one-up itself. The combination of Liman's great action filmmaking and Cruise's human journey from tulip to tiger make the movie much more than a special effects-driven circus of noise and violence. It's the best time travel movie since Looper. For a film that repeats itself again and again, it's impressive none of it ever gets old. 

Senior Editor at Zimbio. I've been everywhere and done everything. Now I write about movies. It's awesome.
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