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Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow [aka Live Die Repeat] (2014)

Directed by: Doug Liman

Premise: An alien life form has invaded Earth and humans stage an enormous offensive military operation. In the midst of the battle, a solider (Tom Cruise) finds himself repeating the same day over and over again.

What Works: Edge of Tomorrow merges the action of Starship Troopers with the conceit of Groundhog Day and that combination generally works. The film deals with its circuitous premise with wit and intelligence and it’s a very good example of Hollywood tentpole filmmaking in that it is very entertaining while also delivering a story built around compelling human relationships. Edge of Tomorrow is first and foremost a spectacle and nearly everything about the technical aspects of this film are first rate. The battle scenes are furious and gritty and the visuals are spectacular yet staged in such a naturalistic way that the filmmakers maintain and enhance the illusion. The spectacle of Edge of Tomorrow is matched by the human story between an inexperienced soldier played by Tom Cruise and a war hero played by Emily Blunt. Cruise’s character has no fighting skills and it is up to Blunt’s character to get him into shape. One of the unique ideas of Edge of Tomorrow’s premise is that for Tom Cruise’s character to maintain his ability to relive the day, he has to die and Emily Blunt’s character is all too willing to help him do that. The connection with Groundhog Day becomes apparent here as the filmmakers are able to play this gimmick for humor but they also push it into dramatic places as Cruise’s character becomes exhausted by the constant reincarnation. The filmmakers handle the premise of Edge of Tomorrow very well and make some smart storytelling decisions. The nature of the premise could lead the movie to become very repetitive but the filmmakers find ways of streamlining the story and getting to the point or omitting certain reincarnations and later using a reveal to dramatic effect. The film also features some good choices in the ending, raising the stakes in a compelling way and using the gimmick of the premise to enhance the underlying themes of heroism and sacrifice.

What Doesn’t: Edge of Tomorrow features Tom Cruise in the lead role and Cruise is miscast in the part. The character is envisioned as a military PR representative who has no interest in combat and is in fact quite cowardly. When circumstances force him into a fighting position, Cruise’s character grows from a soft spokesperson and into a hardened soldier but putting Tom Cruise into a role like this comes across as silly. The actor’s public persona as the unflappable star of action movies like Top Gun, Minority Report, and the Mission: Impossible series gets in the way of the part and the inconsistency between the character and the movie star who plays him is never resolved. Edge of Tomorrow is a well designed production and it frequently looks great except for the alien creatures. The way they are visualized on screen frequently looks like the monsters of a first-person shooter video game and like a lot of digital creations they have no sense of weight or mass nor a convincing visual texture. The movements of the creatures are also unbelievably fast; Edge of Tomorrow is shot in a realistic style but the way the creatures move on screen is not in keeping with the rest of the picture. Edge of Tomorrow is also somewhat disappointing in its politics. The setup of the movie invokes antiwar pictures, most notably All Quiet on the Western Front, but it doesn’t follow through with those ideas. Similarly, the major battle scene of the movie recalls the D-Day invasion as staged in movies like The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan but here too it’s unclear why the filmmakers invoke that historical event.

Bottom Line: Edge of Tomorrow is a fun sci-fi action movie. Despite its flaws, the film is very exciting, the story premise is used intelligently, and even if Tom Cruise is miscast the filmmakers are able to use his considerable charm to the movie’s benefit.

Episode: #495 (June 15, 2014)