Well, the first thing that comes up is the movie ‘Groundhogs Day’ with Bill Murray from 1993. Even though it’s not fair to compare the two movies. They may share the same idea… but the movies itself couldn’t be more different. Still… this comparison comes up all the time.
Edge of Tomorrow (EoT) shares the same idea but it’s far from being a comedy. Instead it’s a Science Fiction war movie. In its depiction a very ‘reduced to the essence/basics’ movie. It’s not playing around and follows a straight line. It doesn’t sidetrack and keeps its main characters in focus and therefor comes across like a very very efficiently produced movie. And while all that sounds very bleak and uninteresting… it’s, on the contrary, exactly that efficient moviemaking what makes this movie work.
We follow Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a military officer and sort of a public relations spokesman from the military for the media. He is the typical guy that tries to ‘sell’ the war to civilians to make them join the fight. In short… he’s the typical advertising guy that’s most likely an asshole. And he is an asshole. Cruise does a formidable job in selling that asshole image with his very unique smartassy charming smile. Now what ‘war’ is there? Well, it’s the typical “aliens (called Mimics) invaded Earth and Mankind wants to send them home again” scenario. Now Major Cage is invited to visit General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) just to get the order that the next day, when the largest offensive ever is scheduled to reclaim Europe, Major Cage will also be there, on the front line, to do media coverage about how the attack is going on. This is a great scene between Cruise and Gleeson. Major Cage, even with his rank as an officer, never fought a single battle in his whole career. He immediately understands that this ‘frontline report’ mission will be very dangerous. Too dangerous for him. Cage is trying to find a way out of his misery and manages it to really seriously anger the General. So much that he’s losing his rank and gets demoted to the rank of Private. Then he finds himself waking up on the military rally grounds that previously was the Heathrow Airport in London. This place looks great and really delivers pictures that kind of look and feel like what you see in documentaries from the day before D-Day in WW2.
There we meet Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton) who is giving Cage hell, brings him to his new platoon and has no mercy, telling him he’ll probably won’t survive the next day. Soon enough the forces are readying for the action and prepare themselves for the invasion. Cage has no clue about anything is pretty much a playball of the circumstances. The invasion is codenamed ‘Downfall’ and the battle itself is kind of an homage to ‘Operation Overlord’, the landing of the Allied forces on the beaches of France in 1944. Except this time the enemy is prepared and everything possible goes, against all predictions, horribly wrong and the enemy anticipated the attack. We see how Cage is stumbling through the battlefield, barely able to make sense of the situation. Soon enough his team is wiped out and the last chance to redeem himself is to blow himself up and take one of the aliens with him. Now that certain Mimic he took out was a special one. Cage suddenly wakes up the day before the invasion and has to live through it all again.
After a couple of repeats he understands what’s happening and understands that he can turn the tide in this war. He also understands that he can’t do it alone. So Cage is trying to make friends with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). She’s the hero of a previous battle and known for her relentless will to kill the enemy. She’s kind of a symbol for hope. Cage of course tried to make his officers understand what is going on with him but naturally no one believes him when he tells them about that strange time-loop effect. But Rita does. We learn that the same thing happened to her in that famous battle at Verdun. Even though she lost her ‘reset’ ability both of them try to find a way to end this war.
So much for an intro to the storyline. Now there is some great acting in this movie. When Cage is entering the first day of the battle he is completely broken. Sweaty, shaking… completely useless. He is basically a joke to all his squad members. And they all do joke about him. Not the best motivation and you can see plain fear in the eyes of Cage. Well done job by Tom Cruise there. He eventually, after a couple of repeats/loops, learns how to handle the situation. Slowly but surely we get the Cruise we know from the Mission Impossible movies for example. It’s a nice transition. But still, Cage is making mistakes and the movie has some very original (and very often funny) ways to show and explain these. In an earlier loop he’s hit by a truck which comes out of nowhere and was just plain funny. You’re a robot if you’re not laughing at that scene. Bill Paxton also works great as Cage’s officer in the Heathrow camp. He’s giving him crap from left and right and seems to have a lot of fun playing that character. Emily Blunt is also very believable in her part as the heroine. Even if she’s very vulnerable, she still stays above all these other soldiers around her. She has a certain ‘grace’ on the battlefield. The way she moves and deals with the enemy just looks really good.
On a technical aspect there’s also not much to critique. The script is solid and even manages it to flesh out background characters enough that you kinda care for them too. Sometimes a little far fetched but still good and efficient in its pacing. The camera work is ok, but has a little too much shaky cam syndrome going on in the battle scenes. On a visual level the movie comes along really bleak. This may turn off some people but for me it added to the visual realism. Then there are the Exo-Suits. Now a lot of fans were not happy when they didn’t manage to make these for the 1998 Starship Troopers movie. Since in the novel the soldiers had such Exoskeleton Suits to fight the Bugs. I guess they had to strip that part due to budget limitations and VFX not being where techniques are nowadays. The aliens often reminded me of the drones in the Matrix movies. Which probably isn’t a fair comparison since the aliens here are organic. It’s mostly their movement style. When they get a closeup and don’t move too much, they actually look quite scary. I have to applaud the fact that (when you get a clean look at them) these creatures finally do look like aliens and not humanoid or like something that could be off Earth.
You can see a lot of influences from all kinds of Scifi literature and movies packed into EoT. From Starship Troopers to The Forever War. Some parts of the film even have a World War 1 flair. But that may be caused by the look they chose for the invasion scenes. In some twisted universe EoT could have even been a sequel to that World Invasion/Battle: LA movie. Thinking about it… it would have been perfect. Battle: LA had a really nice first 30 minutes but became a horrible movie very soon after that.
While watching a review of this movie on Thecinemasnob.com, it was noted that this is best videogame movie ever made. And while the movie is not based on a videogame it completely makes sense. The whole mechanic of the movie works like a videogame. Cage basically is the playable character and everytime the (let’s say just for fun) director makes a mistake… Cage has to start the level again! It’s a funny analysis and it could totally make sense! In ye olden days, with the jump’n'run games for example, you really needed some very good timing and planning on how you move through the levels. The same thing happens in the movie. That’s a funny detail worth to mention.
Only the ending felt a tiny bit too much by the book. But that’s merely a taste thing I’d say. Otherwise a very solid and good movie. I like Tom Cruise’s Scifi choices so far. I can’t remember a bad movie with him that’s set in the Scifi genre. It’s also good to see an original movie and not a remake, sequel or prequel making a lot of money and being successful these days.