The idea that one must relive the most difficult day of one’s life over and over again doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Yet it makes for a terrific movie premise, as is clear from the new Tom Cruise starrer, Edge of Tomorrow. Directed by The Bourne Identity’s Doug Liman, this is a refreshingly smart sci-fi action blockbuster that’s more than just explosions and gunfights and special effects.
In the near future, the Earth is under deadly attack from a race of spider-like aliens known as Mimics. They’ve infiltrated Europe, where the army is trying, without much success, to defeat them. Cruise’s character, Bill Cage, is a cowardly US Army desk officer with no combat experience. When he’s demoted and sent to the frontline, he’s killed within minutes…then wakes up the day before his death.
Trapped in a time loop that resets each time he dies, Cage is forced to fight the same battle over and over again. Each day, he manages to stay alive a little bit longer. Then he meets a super-brave female soldier, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who seems to recognize his condition. When it becomes clear that only they can stop the Mimics, she helps improve Cage’s fighting skills in the little time they have before he dies on the battleground every day.
Liman handles the film’s Groundhog Day-like central conceit with some interesting visual touches. We get different angles on repeated scenes so it doesn’t feel like we’re stuck in a videogame, and the editing is thoughtful yet slick. The film’s writers keep proceedings fresh despite the repetitive nature of the events, by feeding us intriguing plot twists, and by coming up with new and interesting ways for Cage to die each time. As the stakes are raised and the momentum keeps building – although only incrementally – the filmmakers even manage to give us some poignant moments between the leads.
Cruise is clearly enjoying himself in the kind of role he hasn’t played before – a petrified chicken, who eventually grows a pair. Those latter portions, when he’s in hero-out-to-save-the-world mode, feel familiar and less interesting. Emily Blunt is fully convincing as the badass heroine, and gets some nice moments to shine.
Despite borrowing bits and bobs from many films including Moon director Duncan Jones’ grossly underrated Source Code, Liman still succeeds in delivering a film that skillfully melds a high-concept premise with thrilling action and even spurts of unexpected black humor. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Edge of Tomorrow. For a film about repetition, it never feels tired.

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