The last two years, moviegoers have been treated to two amazing science fiction films — the Tom Cruise action epic “Oblivion” and the time-traveling “Looper,” which showed that there was still some original ideas floating around in Hollywood.
Like those modern cinematic gems, “Edge of Tomorrow” proves a summer blockbuster doesn’t have to be based on a mainstream comic book or a sequel to be just as exciting, thrilling and entertaining.
Earth is in the midst of a war with an adaptive alien race that is slowly conquering the planet. Maj. William Cage (Tom Cruise, “Jack Reacher”) has been on the P.R. side of the war and lacks any useful combat experience, but he’s been sent to the frontlines in what is expected to be the pivotal battle of the conflict.
Dispatched to “J” company under the command of Master Sgt. Farell (a spirited as always Bill Paxton, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Cage gets a rough introduction to military life and control of the impressive battle suits the military utilizes.
Upon entering the battlefield, Cage gets caught in a time loop (or, a cage) where he finds himself reliving the day of the battle every time he’s killed. He soon finds a kindred spirit in Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, “Your Sister’s Sister”), a legendary warrior who has become the iconic figure for the resistance effort. With Rita’s aid, Cage is able to become nearly as adept a fighter as the two strive to end the war once and for all.
The film is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel, “All You Need Is Kill,” but the script went through nearly as many incarnations as Cage with Dante Harper’s original revised by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth who in turn were replaced by Simon Kinberg before Christopher McQuarrie wrote the final version. For as convoluted as the writing process was, the script flows smoothly, which isn’t always the case whenever time travel is involved.
Cage provides Cruise the chance to portray a vulnerable character who isn’t flawless like his typical cocksure action character a la Ethan Hunt in the “Mission: Impossible” series. There’s some character growth for Cruise and consequently the role allows Cruise to deliver his strongest performance in years.
The film also offers the even rarer instance where the female lead has to do the training and rescuing as opposed to being the weak link or not as competent fighter as her male counterparts. It’s a role perfectly suited for Blunt, who conveys far more sex appeal with how strongly Rita is portrayed instead of being paraded around in tight-fitting titillating outfits. Rita is intended to be every bit Cage’s equal and for a welcome majority of the film, she’s his superior. Blunt’s Rita joins the all-time list of kick-a$$ female protagonists like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in “Aliens,” Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and Uma Thurman’s The Bride in “Kill Bill.”
The live, die, rinse, repeat setup allows for some humor that you don’t typically find in sci-fi films. Even better, the comedy elements are as funny as intended without feeling out of place in a sci-fi war flick. And for the most part, the script doesn’t succumb to the need to have Cage and Rita become romantically involved.
Doug Liman, the director behind big blockbusters “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Bourne Identity,” proves a wise choice to helm this unique film as it requires a filmmaker who can weave humor into a life or death struggle without being overwhelmed with the action elements. Neither the more lighthearted nor the bombastic action pieces feel beyond him and Liman handles both so smoothly he makes it look easy. For a film mainly set on one day, Liman finds new ways to keep it fresh with slight deviations from a previous take.
The ending may be the one aspect of the film that’s a bit unsatisfying largely due to the safe, send the audience home with a smile mentality. The filmmakers may have overestimated the viewers’ need for a happy ending as the story didn’t need a neat and tidy conclusion. Ending aside, this is the year’s don’t miss sci-fi adventure and one you’ll definitely want to fully experience on the big screen.
Rating: 9 out of 10