Tom Cruise as Lt. Col. Bill Cage
Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski
Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell
Brendan Gleeson as General Brigham
Jonas Armstrong as Skinner
Tony Way as Kimmel
Kick Gurry as Griff
Franz Drameh as Ford
Dragomir Mrsic as Kuntz
Directed by Doug Liman
Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) has been sent to the frontlines of the war between humans and the alien “Mimics” even though he isn’t combat-ready. His platoon’s Normandie-like invasion to take back Europe goes horribly wrong as they’re ambushed on the beach, but not before Cage meets Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt), the legendary Angel of Verdun, who singlehandedly has killed thousands of the adversary. When Cage is killed, he finds himself transported back to the day before he was sent to the battlefield, giving him another chance to change the outcome.
Those of you who’ve patiently been waiting to see a movie version of the video game “Halo” may finally have gotten your wish with a premise that takes the idea of the “Respawn” to another level, as we watch Tom Cruise caught in a time loop (of sorts) where he keeps reliving the same events and every time he’s killed, he’s sent back to the beginning. Any fervent gamer can understand that frustration but despite a wonky title that would work better on the cover of a ’70s sci-fi paperback than it does a modern-day action movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is actually so effective and fun that it’s probably one of the first big surprises of the summer.
Time travel movies can be tricky things, but “Edge of Tomorrow” takes the classic sci-fi trope of using time travel to change the past/future in a way that falls somewhere between “Source Code” and “Groundhog Day.” It may be surprising how entertaining it is to watch Tom Cruise’s character repeating the same situations over the first 30 minutes of a movie, but eventually, it breaks away from that repetition to explain how Cage is able to keep transporting himself back to the past, which involves an alien device called the Omega. Once she’s brought on board, Rita convinces Cage to use his newfound ability to relive the same day in order to get them through the battlefield so they can find and destroy the Omega.
Granted, this may not seem like such an easy-to-sell premise, but a smartly-written script by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth adapts the Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” in a way that actually delivers on the film’s intriguing central concept.
Neither director Doug Liman nor Cruise are strangers to big budget action FX movies, but “Edge of Tomorrow” ups the ante with exceptional production design that starts with building a realistic world full of future tech that feels credible. The beachfront invasion that makes up the central set piece for the film is particularly spectacular as it’s shown from so many different angles, and while one can find familiar elements like the military’s use of exoskeleton-like battle armor to fight mechanical multi-tentacled alien creatures, having those touchstones also offers a level of comfort that makes it all easier to assimilate.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is just as effective as a straight-up summer action movie as it dodges the trend of taking the dark and dire route one might expect from what is basically a war movie and induces a healthy dose of humor and fun. Much of that comes from how Cage deals with his situation and changes things each time re-experiences them, but it’s also surprisingly fun to watch him get killed over and over, sometimes in very dark ways. (Heck, those who aren’t fans of Cruise may enjoy this movie for that reason alone!)
But if you do like Cruise, his charm does a lot to carry what is essentially a two-hander between him and Emily Blunt, their chemistry going a long way to carry the movie with enough playful flirting that skirts any overt romance. Blunt never takes a back seat to Cruise when it comes to the action either as she’s right there with him, playing the type of bad-ass female warrior we often see in Japanese comics and cartoons.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is science fiction at its finest and in its purest form, and unlike other movies that involve time travel, there’s none of the confusion or head scratching that often comes with the territory, because you’re so caught up in the characters and their surroundings, you never feel the need to dissect it for continuity glitches.
In many ways, it also claims the title of the best action movie of the summer (at least so far) by combining its innovative sci-fi premise with the type of high-gauged action James Cameron delivers so effortlessly.