Try as one might, it is virtually impossible to discuss “Edge of Tomorrow” without making at least a passing reference to “Groundhog Day,” the 1993 comedy whose very name has become synonymous with – and, indeed, pop culture shorthand for – the act of living the same experience over and over again.
Directed with quirky inventiveness by Doug Liman, “Edge of Tomorrow” takes this concept into the realm of futuristic science fiction, using the novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka as its source of inspiration. Once again we find ourselves in the near-future, after an alien invasion has all but wiped out continental Europe. Now, it’s time for the surviving nations to launch a new D-Day-type assault on the coast of France, this time with super-sophisticated weaponry and armor that may or may not stand up against this most formidable of enemies. Tom Cruise plays a glib and cowardly public relations officer who is only too eager to stand on the sidelines offering encouragement while other young men and women go off to do the fighting, but who is none too happy when he’s ordered by one General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to go take up arms himself. Things don’t go too well for Major William Cage in his first foray into mortal combat – he’s killed, actually – but through some inexplicable fluke of nature, he wakes up alive in the time before the battle, destined to relive the incident over and over again till he finally gets it right.
By far, the best element in “Edge of Tomorrow” is the fun and lively performance by Tom Cruise, who gets to run the emotional gamut from paralyzing fear to swaggering bravado, from pleading desperation to raging cock-sureness all within the confines of a single role. In fact it’s entertaining to watch how Cage’s confidence grows in direct proportion to his knowledge each time he comes back from a trip to the future. Cruise has been at this sort of popcorn-entertainment gig for an awfully long time now, and it’s clear he’s lost none of his touch. Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton are additional standouts in an excellent cast.
Unfortunately, as with even the better forays into big-budget movie-making, “Edge of Tomorrow” does eventually hit a point of diminishing returns, as we get flummoxed by the occasional plot hole and overwhelmed by a surfeit of special effects (though the CGI here is, indeed, very impressive). Still, “Edge of Tomorrow” has a sophistication and an intelligence rare to modern blockbusters, and it actually manages to mine a surprising amount of humor from its set-up. It doesn’t insult its audience, which is saying quite a bit when it comes to the fare we’re generally offered when it’s summertime at the movies.
8 out of 10 stars