"Edge of Tomorrow" is pure entertainment - a video game played by leads Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. If that doesn't sound like a good time, perhaps it has nothing to do with the movie itself, but Cruise's offscreen reputation, which has tarnished an otherwise tremendous career as an action star, one that can only be advanced by his latest role.
Working within his not-inconsiderable range, Cruise lends a lighthearted physicality to a part that demands not subtlety, but the kind of broad strokes and effortless humor that make his "Mission: Impossible" films so entertaining.
In this film, he plays Maj. William Cage, a charismatic propaganda pawn whose job is to convince the men and women of the world to fight a losing war against alien invaders.
Shown is Maj. William Cage (Tom Cruise), who fights to save humans from aliens in “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Shown is Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), an alien-killing warrior in a scene from “Edge of Tomorrow.”
When he's stripped of his rank, Cage is horrified to find himself on the front lines during a last-ditch effort to save the human race.
Donned in a standardized exoskeleton that augments the human body, he confronts the enemy: wicked fast, tentacled creatures called Mimics that aren't easy to take down. As Cage manages to destroy one, its blood burns through him, killing him, but also granting him the gift of reliving the same day again every time he dies. Death as a reset button allows Cage an eternity to hone his fighting skills and meet and re-meet war-legend Rita Vrataski (Blunt), with whom he can strategize a victory.
The time-loop, trial-and-error conceit works for the human resistance, just as it works for the film itself. As long as Cage's ability remains intact, the movie riffs on the same scenes, over and over again, sometimes with humor, sometimes with tragedy but always with skill. Each scene builds on the ones that come before, conveying new information with a cinematic shorthand that suggests layered characters and a lived-in world.
As deft as the script is, it wouldn't work without a talented cast, especially Cruise, who has to give a fresh take on every iteration of the same scenes. His co-star, Blunt, has less to do. Her character only lives through the same day once, but as a cutthroat, alien-killing machine, she's imposing and charming all at the same time. Together, the two sell a relationship that is, on one side, only ever a day old. Every time Cage dies and begins the day anew, he has to reintroduce himself to Vrataski, who, for the convenience of the plot, believes his story because she had the same reset power at one point during the war.
This fact postpones their 11th-hour snog, which feels obligatory rather than earned. The kiss is less rewarding for the audience than for Cage, whose anguish stems from spending so much time with a woman who never knows him for more than 24 hours. Each day, Cage struggles with Vrataski's death and his own.
"I wish I didn't know you, but I do," he tells her at one point, as if he's a character in the "The Notebook." Thankfully, "Edge of Tomorrow" doesn't take itself that seriously. In fact, the stakes are never real until a certain turn of the plot, that, though predictable, had to happen at some point, lest Cruise run out of tears, or the audience patience.
By depicting similar scenes and situations several times, the film drags in some moments and moves briskly in others, such as when humor is used to advance the plot, or rather, get to the next level. The filmmakers emphasize the comic aspect of Cage's sundry deaths, so he learns what not to do the next time around.
It's a hard game for him set to "easy" for the rest of us.
3 1/2 stars out of 4.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.