A film review by Craig J. Koban June 13, 2014

RANK: #22


2014, PG-13, 113 mins.


Tom Cruise as Lt. Col. Bill Cage  /  Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski  /  Brendan Gleeson as General Brigham  /  Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell  /  Jonas Armstrong as Skinner  /  Tony Way as Kimmel  /  Kick Gurry as Griff  /  Dragomir Mrsic as Kuntz  /  Charlotte Riley as Nance  /  Noah Taylor as Dr. Carter

Directed by Doug Liman  /  Written by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth  /  Based on the graphic novel ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by Hiroshi Sakurazaka


EDGE OF TOMORROW is a new futuristic sci-fi thriller that involves a sniveling and cowardly man that becomes a grizzled and courageous action hero…but only after dying an unfathomable amount of times and replaying the same day over and over again so that he can, in turn, learn from his mistakes.  

The overall premise is hardly altogether radical (beyond obvious comparisons to GROUNDHOG DAY’s story – involving a character forced to repeatedly relive and replay the same day – will surface), but EDGE OF TOMORROW overcomes these blatant similarities in the manner that director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth manage to cleverly marry grand alien invasion spectacle, hard-hitting action, well drawn characters, and a sly amount of dark comic mischief into the proceedings.  

Set in the not-too-distant future and based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s graphic novel ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, EDGE OF TOMORROW reveals that Earth has been invaded by an alien menace known as “Mimics,” strange, exotic, and lethal biomechanical monstrosities that, for five years, have laid much of Europe to waste and soon wish to spread their terror all over the world.  After a series of costly and soul-crushing battles with the extra-terrestrial menace, the United Defense Forces have concocted mechanized exoskeletons for soldiers that give them a fighting edge, which further leads to a decisive victory versus the aliens in Verdun.  However, the victory celebration is short lived, as General Brigham (the always authoritative Brendan Gleeson) begins hatching a master attack plan for an all-out offensive versus the Mimics. 



Part of the General’s plan involves Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), an American military desk jockey that specializes in convincing the public of the importance and necessity of the war effort.  When Cage arrives to meet with the General he’s befuddled when he orders him to the frontlines with the rest of the suited up soldiers to cover the offensive with a camera crew.  Seeing as Cage has no combat experience – and will do or say just about anything to avoid the savagery of the battlefield – he steadfastly refuses, but finds himself being arrested as a deserter and ranked down to a private.  He’s soon sent to France to very quickly acclimatize himself to solider life and is forced into combat, albeit completely unprepared.  He dies within minutes of landing on the war ravaged beaches of Northwestern France. 

Then…something weird happens.  Just after he is killed he immediately awakens…but at the very beginning of the day before he’s shipped out for battle.  Predictably, Cage emerges from his highly unlikely rebirth completely perplexed, especially seeing as he then has to re-live key moments of his day leading up to the battle.  He then hits the battlefield again…and dies…but then awakens yet again at the beginning of the day.  He relives the day, goes to war, dies again, and awakens again…over and over again.  However, after his many grisly deaths and rebirths, Cage begins to see particular patterns in the enemy – along with becoming more adept at fighting via his mechanical suit – and realizes that replaying his day continuously could give the military a strategic advantage in taking the Mimics down.  Of course, no one in the army believes his story, except for one of the military’s most decorated and iconic soldiers, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who has become a media hero for slaying multiple alien beasties.  She discovers Cage’s unique temporal shifting abilities and believes him…but only because she used to be able to travel back in time as well.  Together, they both team up to plan the ultimate undoing of the Mimics. 

EDGE OF TOMORROW, being a time travel film, does a remarkably adept job of avoiding paradoxes (the bane of all time travel films) and sticking to its own set of established rules for time travel.  Part of the film’s macabre sense of humor comes from relaying the increasingly exasperated demeanor of Cage as he tries, sometimes pathetically, to avoid death each of days he re-lives, but fails miserable most time.  It’s ultimately revealed that the key strategic advantage of Cage is to live, die, and repeat each day so that he can be further trained by Rita to become a one-man army, which involves many amusing sequences of her “resetting” him by, for example, shooting him in the head to send him back.  The emotional gauntlet that Cage finds himself in – mercilessly dying hundreds of times – could have proven overbearing or tedious, but Liman is shrewd enough to inject the film with a playful and swiftly paced sense of unpredictability to the premise that helps carry it forward. 

The more one watches EDGE OF TOMORROW the more apparent it becomes that it’s really a meta film commenting on Tom Cruise’s career of frequently playing indestructible action heroes that defy death at every turn.  This is not Cruise’s first foray into the sci-fi genre (see MINORITY REPORT, WAR OR THE WORLDS, and the criminally underrated OBLIVION), but he has never been so anti-Cruise-ian in his role of Cage, who begins the film as a lecherous and selfish loser that’s an unmitigated failure as a soldier that then  - after repeated attempts – learns to become the quintessential Cruise action hero we all know.  Cage is a complete worm of a man in the opening stages of the film, and Cruise has great delight in portraying his less-than-heroic qualities.  Part of the pleasure of EDGE OF TOMORROW is seeing this man become what we want him to become, via the hard-edged training methods of Rita.  Emily Blunt is well cast opposite of Cruise, who's completely authentic as her battle hardened soldier that believes Cage’s cockamamie story.  Few actresses can blend intensely rugged toughness with raw sex appeal as well as she can. 

Liman also knows how to helm action (having previously directed THE BOURNE IDENTITY and MR. AND MRS. SMITH) and certainly knows how to create relative order from the film’s many chaotic action sequences pitting Cruise and company versus the Mimics (the latter which are kind of beautifully rendered despite their remarkably dangerous tendency to quickly kill their prey with their lightning quick tentacles).  The battles themselves have the look and feel of otherworldly SAVING PRIVATE RYAN skirmishes, during which time cinematographer Dion Beebe’s gritty, frenetic – but never lacking in coherence and clarity – camera work gives the film a stark lived-in visual sheen.  Beyond that, Liman milks the unending brutality and swiftness of every one of Cage’s shocking deaths and finds bleak humor in them with something as simple as nimble minded editorial choices.  There’s an intoxicatingly mischievous edge to the film that becomes more infectious as it progresses.  

For as thanklessly acted, routinely amusing, and ingeniously plotted as EDGE OF TOMORROW is, the film still takes a few wrong detours, especially during its action and effects-heavy climax that’s a bit too conventionally rendered for its own good.  Then there is the film’s steadfast obligation to ignore its own time travel logic with a rather tacked-on epilogue that, quite frankly, had me scratching my head out of confusion.  Still, this is an acutely ambitious mankind-versus-aliens extravaganza that has fun subverting Cruise’ movie star image and past roles while, at the same time, further challenging our expectations of the genre.  We’ve seen many alien invasion thrillers before, but not quite as fiendishly entertaining and whimsically playful with its premise as this.   


  H O M E