Based on the light novel “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow takes everything that makes time travel stories fun and compelling, then injects it with an overdose of action and thrills. With Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt both putting in stellar work, the film excels on all fronts.
Taking elements of countless alien invasion films and Groundhog Day-like time travel loops, the film tackles ideas in fun and fresh ways.
At an unspecified point in the near future, the entire Earth has found itself at war with the Mimics, an unstoppable alien species that crash-landed in Europe via meteor and has slowly enveloped the continent. The nations of the world have been in constant battle for the last five years and may have just turned the tide with the introduction of armed mechanized exoskeletons known as Jackets. These heavy-duty machines turn even a basic soldier into a killing machine. On the eve of the war’s giant invasion of Europe, Major William Cage (Cruise) finds himself tossed into the frontlines and framed by the United Defense Forces general as a soldier who tried to desert the military.
But Cage is no warrior, he’s a spokesman, and it shows. Mere minutes into the battle, Cage is killed in combat. But something strange happens. Cage wakes up the day before the invasion, reliving the day again and again, waking every time he dies. Forced to figure out a way to succeed, Cage may be the world’s only hope as they stand no chance against an alien enemy that knows their every move. Like the most difficult videogame you’ve ever played, he must die again and again to become an unstoppable soldier equipped with the experience needed to beat the enemy.
Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) have managed to make a film that is action packed, intensely thrilling, and frequently hilarious. For a film that focuses on repeating the same day over and over again, Edge of Tomorrow manages to stay rather unpredictable, keeping both the characters and the audience guessing.
What makes Edge of Tomorrow such a standout sci-fi feature is not that it is completely original, although it certainly forges its own path. Rather, it is the fact that every element of the movie is so well done and its many moving elements are perfectly balanced. Importantly, the story defies predictability and repetition. Once any element of the day repeating is in danger of growing stale, a new twist is thrown into the mix, pushing the narrative in fresh directions.
Liman and McQuarrie wisely withhold key pieces of information, revealing them at just the right moments. Whether this is a new discovery made by the characters or a pitch perfect reveal that Cage has actually experienced what the audience is seeing for the first time, the film stays exciting. It makes you genuinely excited for the next time the movie pulls the rug out from under you.
Cruise also continues to be a strong leading man. Unlike many of his other films, his character doesn’t start off as an action hero. Instead, he’s quite the coward. But reliving the same battle-filled day slowly hardens him into an absolute warrior. Just as compelling is Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, the face of the UDF and a beast in combat. Since she experienced similar loops in the past, she becomes Cage’s only partner, but is no damsel in distress. In fact, she’s downright intimidating while still displaying depth as the day cycles over and over again. Her rapport with Cruise manages to be consistently compelling, despite starting from scratch over and over again. In addition, Bill Paxton puts in a fun performance as Master Sergeant Farell, a cigar-chomping bulldog of a man who’s in love with war.
Blunt and Cruise get into some absolutely brutal brawls throughout the film’s runtime. Day after day, the two are forced to battle the deadly Mimics. Giant explosions, screeching aliens, and the deafening roar of machine guns make it a riproaring experience again and again. However, the action never becomes overwhelming. Since anyone could literally die at any moment (and often does), the battles are frequently nerve-wracking in the best way possible.
Beyond the performances and action, what may be most surprising about Edge of Tomorrow is that it has so many strong laughs. When death is merely a reset button, it can spark many different emotions. Over and over again, Cage dies violently brutal, and brutally funny, deaths. Thankfully, the comedy doesn’t underplay the drama or the serious stakes that the movie is built around.
Edge of Tomorrow also knows just how to take on the science fiction concepts that propel the film. Unlike Cruise’s last foray into sci-fi, Oblivion, this movie knows to not jam too many ideas into its runtime. Rather, it takes the main time travel concepts and runs with it. With just enough explanation, the audience can understand and have fun with the ideas at play, without taking focus away from the action and characters that make the film great.
In addition, the technology on display is impressive without being unrealistic. The mechsuits that play such a heavy part in the film’s action are only a few steps away from what is possible right now. It’s well known that the United States military is currently developing its own mechanized battle suits. The ones on display in Edge of Tomorrow may well be what are worn on the battlefield one day. These no-frills, all-kills metal exoskeletons are truly badass. Their users speed around the battlefield, launching rockets and pouring lead into Mimics.
Speaking of the alien foes, the Mimics are appropriately beastly. These techno-organic, tentacle-covered monsters are glowing whirlwinds of death in battle, lashing out and overwhelming the humans in droves. Even a single Mimic is quite terrifying on its own, so legions of them easily pump up the intensity whenever they burst onto the scene.
While a few elements of Edge of Tomorrow may fall short, such as a time-loop scenario that is not as complex as other sci-fi movies or an ending that is either way too tidy or far too sloppy, it’s a testament to the many strengths that are only possible in sci-fi film. This may easily become a well-loved staple of the genre during the coming years.