Edge of Tomorrow
Several times now, I’ve heard Edge of Tomorrow described as the action version of Groundhog Day. While that might be a good way to describe the movie quickly to someone who hasn’t heard of it, it does a disservice to an original and exciting movie. For me, Edge of Tomorrow is so far the best movie of the summer and it deserves more careful consideration than a comparison to a 20-year old comedy.
I am generally not a big fan of Tom Cruise, and he’s all over the advertising for this movie. He always seems smug and too cool in his roles. This time around, he’s nearly the opposite. He’s kind of cowardly, extremely vulnerable, and somewhat unlikable, but for character reasons not celebrity TMZ reasons. It’s a new kind of role for him, and he’s much more normal than his usual roles, so it’s easier to go along with him through the story. Also, by starting from such a non heroic character, there is more room to grow and have a real character arc. Simply, it’s the most I’ve liked Tom Cruise on screen in years, maybe ever.
His co-lead is Emily Blunt, who has been doing great work in smaller movies for years. This is a change of pace here, and in fact, she is in what you might call the Tom Cruise role–the seasoned war veteran, the hero, the tough-as-nails soldier. Surprisingly, she totally looks the part. I wouldn’t want to mess with her. She guides Tom (and the audience) through this experience of reliving the same day in a war against an alien force.
How that happens is best left to discover in the movie. But it does happen, and it’s cool. The day in question is a big beach invasion (think D-Day, but sci-fi) and Tom is way out of his league. Every time he dies, he has to do it all again. Except each time, he has a little more skill and a little more knowledge. It sounds repetitive, but it’s not, and for 2 reasons. First, the action is incredible. Impressive aliens, cool battle suits, great camera placement…and all without being too shaky or jumbled that you can’t tell what’s happening. It’s remarkably clear. Second, each time through the battle focuses on something new. Once an obstacle is overcome, it isn’t shown in the next iteration. It’s on to the next challenge. Eventually, the battle isn’t even the focus as the movie digs deeper into the story and looks beyond just a singular battles.
In addition to possibly the best action so far this year, the movie is funny. It’s got a good sense of gallows humor that treats the repeated deaths almost like a child learning a sport. He’s going to fail before he gets it right, and those failures are darn amusing. Eventually, the humor fades as the stakes get raised and the story goes to places not stated in the trailer. I haven’t read the novel this is based on (All you Need is Kill), but I loved not knowing what would come next. It’s exhilarating, watching the main characters address each challenge and not knowing what might result. It’s a weird Choose Your Own Adventure, where the wrong choice means a total restart.
This is the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far this summer. It’s not perfect, of course. My main problem is that the ending is a little bit too neat and Hollywood, although that’s too be expected. It’s mostly disappointing here because of how original the rest of the movie was. And with any story involving time travel, you have to just go with it because you can likely find plot holes if you really look for them. But this movie is fun enough that you shouldn’t have time to think about that.