I’m not much of a fan when it comes to Tom Cruise. It’s not just the Scientology, but for a long while he has been doing the sort of mindless glossy action films which don’t much appeal to me. So my expectations for another Tom Cruise SF action film weren’t actually that high.
It was, though, sold to me as a cross between two films that I love: Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers. The latter I’ve always liked as a send-up of over-the-top military SF — and, indeed, of its own source material. Groundhog Day is just a simple idea, effectively executed.
So can Edge of Tomorrow change my mind on Tom Cruise films?
Edge of Tomorrow takes place amid an invasion of Earth by an alien race nicknamed “mimics”. Major William Cage is an Army PR man, press-ganged into the field as a morale-raising exercise in the counter attack on enemy positions in Europe. He dies almost immediately, but wakes up just before the invasion begins, and loops the same day over and over each time he dies. Tracking down war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), he learns that the same thing happened to her in a previous battle, and they work together to use Cage’s situation to their advantage.
Plot-wise, it was pretty much Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day. The repetition wasn’t used to quite the same hilarious variety as in the latter, and whilst Cruise uses the repeats to perfect a skill, it isn’t so much in pursuit of the perfect day as it is finding something that works.
And actually, it hinges on Cruise’s ability as an actor. He does a great job here, starting out as the snivelling coward with no place on the battlefield. And his transformation into the experienced soldier is more than just into typical Tom Cruise action hero. He has a sense of bored repetition; he hasn’t mastered anything more than the ordered button pushing of a lacklustre video game.
The plot is, to be blunt (Ha. Ha. Ha. -Ed), completely bonkers. The science was unfollowable even to me, and it may have been better taking the Groundhog Day approach of just not explaining anything. There was plenty of cool military hardware, which looked to have some foundation in reality, even if there was numerous “Yeah, he’s dead” moments. And the design of the aliens was visually interesting enough to add another dimension.
What I really liked about this, though, was that it surprised me. I was expecting something completely different, and altogether lazier. Instead, it was reasonably smart, and rather creative. And, as I said, Tom Cruise’s best performance in years. Emily Blunt was good, though too often their budding romance felt forced. The moment when he pleads with her to leave, to run away, because he’s tired of watching her die, was touching though.
The Groundhog Day idea is one which is well used in science-fiction (one of my favourite instances being TV series Stargate SG-1, which gave us this gem of a sequence), and to use it with a fun, new twist is quite an ask. Edge of Tomorrow is not a perfect film, but it is a good film. An enjoyable film. A film worth giving a chance.
I’m really not sure what this film is actually called. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t the title of the source novel, All You Need is Kill, which was ditched before release. The DVD, however, is seemingly being marketed as Live Die Repeat or Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. No, I don’t know why either. I’ve gone with Edge of Tomorrow for the purposes of this review primarily because that’s the title under which it was released at the cinema.