Tom Cruise is a pansy. With ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, we finally witness a Cruise we have not seen in years. In the opening minutes, media consultant Cage (Cruise) is asked by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to serve on the front lines of the most important attack in our planet’s fight against an alien invasion. Brigham tells Cage how this will cement his men’s courage, solidifying their resolve by following a known leader…and Cage refuses. Not only does he refuse, he pathetically attempts every method of manipulation possible to avert certain death. He is not a hero. Cage is a coward.
Cage is promptly knocked out and wakes up on base the day before the invasion. Forced to fight after multiple attempts to flee and talk himself out of his predicament, he lands on the beaches of Normandy-ish France. With his lack of skill nor testosterone, he also promptly dies. If you ever thought Tom Cruise was safe from dying in the movies, ‘Tomorrow’ should eradicate that idea pretty quickly. Because he dies here. A lot.
You see, Cage somehow has stumbled upon a way to relive the same day over and over. Kind of like Groundhog Day without the endless Murray mugging. The only trick is this: To relive this day, he must die at the end of it. Every time. Once Cage gets a handle on what is happening to him, he seeks out Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) since she is the only person who seems to understand what is happening to him. As the reigning badass in this very diverse military, Rita (or Full Metal Bitch as she is known around the world) vows to assist Cage with learning the enemy’s tricks and somehow win this war before we actually lose it.
Time travel and time loops can be the most frustrating movie component out there. If a filmmaker does it right, there are infinite possibilities. If they do it wrong, you end up with audience migraines. Tomorrow (based on the Japanese manga All You Need Is Kill) handles this concept deftly. It gives you the basic details of what Cage is going through, yet avoids filling your head with so many rules that it ceases making any kind of logical sense. It gives us the rundown of how this insanity works and lets it fly.
It is also pretty damn funny. You would never guess from the deadly serious trailers, but Tomorrow packs more genuine laughs that most big-budget action spectacles are legally allowed. Not forced laughs like last summer’s Pacific Rim or the absence of laughs as in this year’s Godzilla…legitimately amusing humor. By needing Cage to die in order to reset his day, we get to watch him die over and over until he gets that portion of the story right. It sounds like something that would be draining, instead director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) utilizes this idea for a game he likes to call ‘How Many Ways Can We Kill Tom Cruise?’
So if you are one of those ‘Cruise-haters’ (which I believe is a real organization these days), rejoice! You can watch him bite the bullet in about 47 different and exciting ways. You also get to watch Bill Paxton as Master Sargent Farell, in what may be the best role Paxton has had in years, where he becomes increasingly befuddled as Cage trips him up with his seemingly psychic revelations. The natural comedy in this film is what separates it and makes this one of the more fun sci-fi films we have had in some time.
This is not the Tom Cruise we have seen on screen the past few years. Gone is the confident hero, steadily walking through reels as though even the villain knows there is no outcome possible where Cruise does not open up his special can of whoop-ass and bring them crashing to their knees. He begins as a coward and he plays one convincingly for a good portion of the film. Only through training with the real hero of the movie, Rita, does Cruise as Cage begin to return to the stalwart hero we all expected in the opening shot. Even in the cleverly designed mech-suit, with all of its damage potential, Cage does not become ready for battle until the last third of the film. Kudos to Cruise for going completely against type and letting someone else do the heavy lifting for a change. The movie is better for it.
And kudos to Blunt for showing Tom Cruise what a badass is. From her serpent-like maneuvering on the training floor to her mech-suit, death-by-giant-metal-sword ass-kicking we see in battle; Blunt shows us she doesn’t have time to sit around waiting for Cruise to man-up. If you are looking for a character you would follow blindly into battle, it would be Rita, not Cage. She is not in this movie just to give Cruise something to gawk at (though there is some understandable gawking), Rita is here to show Cage how to stop whining like a bitch and win the war. She does not have time for romance or pleasantries, there are mimics to kill and civilizations to save. Gone are the pedestrian claims about her physical appeal, Blunt is a damn hero and we root for her as such. Give this actress her own badass franchise already!
One last point: the alien design. When you first glimpse what the film calls ‘Mimics’, prepare for a headache. They are so fast, so busy, that it is hard to even decipher what they are exactly. As the film continues and you see more and more layered detail into what Liman and Company brought to life, I have to admit that this is the most creative creature design I have seen in years. Mimics do not just cover the bases of ‘so ugly they creep us out’, these things are a tornado of malicious destruction! Whipping around as true beasts of burden, these things would make the most hardened of soldiers dampen his underpants in battle. It has been too long since a movie introduced a menace that legitimately looked like it could destroy the world in enough time to still catch the last 10 minutes of Game of Thrones. These things are just too fun to watch.
If you would have told me 3 months ago that Edge of Tomorrow would be one of the most fun films I would see this year, I would have promptly told you to stop your trolling and get back to click-baiting on Facebook. Like I did, you have to let those bland trailers fall back into the recesses of your mind and give Edge of Tomorrow the fair shake it deserves. Are there plot holes here and there? Absolutely. But Cruise lets himself have fun, Blunt proves you do not have to be named Tom Cruise be a hero, and director Doug Liman keeps our heads spinning just enough to have one of the more original and fun experiences in theaters this year. And that is more than enough Edge for me.
If $10 is the full price of admission, Edge of Tomorrow is worth $8.50
The Hollywood Outsider