Rita (Emily Blunt) and Cage (Tom Cruise) in Edge of Tomorrow (David James/Warner Bros.)
I think we’ve found this summer’s sleeper. Though it’s not tracking well and is going against box office beasts in Maleficent and 22 Jump Street over back-to-back weekends, I’m convinced this is the best action movie we will see this summer. Actually, I lied. The Raid 2 is one of the best action movies to be released in years, but that’s a different article. In Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise who wakes up on the same day again and again, forced to relive a hopeless battle against planet-destroying aliens.
Part Groundhog Day and part Independence Day, Edge of Tomorrow does a great job of keeping a balanced tone, every day of the week (sorry). For a movie as dark as this, it boasts a surprising sense of humor. A few years ago, Source Code was released with the similar intention of marrying the Groundhog Day time machine to a sci-fi thriller. It was a good movie, but it wasn’t great. It used the time machine as expected, and nothing more. Edge of Tomorrow’s use of the device differs, in that, it uses every part of the buffalo: suspense, laughs and, at times, it’s just to speed up the cut. Because of it, the movie feels brisk yet tells a full and satisfying story in under two hours.
For all of Liman’s merits, the true hero of this film is the time machine. Having a “reset” button allows him to avoid typical action movie clichés by making the protagonist disposable. Gripes like, “How did all the bullets miss him?” and “How has he not reloaded yet?” are eliminated. Tom Cruise gets shot? Reset. Tom Cruise runs out of bullets then gets shot? Reset. Tom Cruise needs a break from it all, so he abandons his troop and grabs a drink at the local bar only to witness the destruction of mankind? Reset. It’s a wonderful device, and Liman uses it to full effect, capitalizing not only on its value for action sequences, but on its comedic value also. The humor is dark – as suicide would be – but the energy and pace of the narrative sweeps morbidity under the rug and keeps us moving, denying the opportunity to dwell on it.
And, who could forget the aliens? These extraterrestrials are truly devastating creatures. Imagine the sentinel robots form the Matrix movies, except several times larger and more muscular. Their movements are erratic and unpredictable, spinning in wild ellipses like vicious weed-whackers. Now, imagine that there are over 10 million of them. The feeble efforts from the humans and their general inferiority is refreshing, despite how advanced their tech is. The mech suits are heavy, clunky and don’t move well. They run out of ammo, a lot. The batteries die, the controls are impossible to operate … it sounds a lot like my high school desktop. In a way, that makes it feel more authentic, like something I actually relate to in a world of made up technology. In addition, the chemistry between Cruise and Emily Blunt strays from the typical trope, instead keeping their dynamic from being overtly cheesy or romantic. In fact, they have quite a professional demeanor, focused largely at the task at hand, leaving space in my mind to interpret whatever signals of affection are or aren’t there.
In summation, this is a solid movie – as solid an action movie one can expect from a big studio. It’s also Cruise’s best role in recent memory, playing a coward who isn’t particularly funny, smooth or charming – all classic Cruise staples. Instead he grows tougher and more able, but it comes after so many different failures that it feels like he may have actually earned it. If you’re still on the fence, let me spare you the time and decide for you: Just go. You’ll most probably like it. And in the case that you don’t, you’ll only be down a few bucks anyway. What’s a few bucks for a night out? Trust me, with the competition Liman and Co. are up against, they’re going to need it more than you.
Edge of Tomorrow
Warner Bros. Pictures
In theaters June 6.
Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (must-see), 4 stars (exceptional), 3 stars (solid), 2 stars (average) and 1 star (unworthy).