Major William Cage (Cruise) trains with the Angel of Verdun Rita Vrataski (Blunt). Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
Fun fact: In another life, two of the leads in "Edge of Tomorrow" could have been Avengers. For a time, Tom Cruise was interested in taking on the role of Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie, while Emily Blunt was Marvel's first choice for the role of Natasha Romanov/Black Widow in "Iron Man 2."
Obviously, things didn't pan out, which turned out great for the careers of Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlet Johansson.
And yet, here's Cruise and Blunt teaming up anyway with semi-superpowers even. Cruise wears a suit of armor sans repulsor rays, while Blunt gets lots of guns and a sword that would make the Glamdring weep. The franchise potential for this movie is near zero but for sheer action, it’s a guilty pleasure.
Storywise, "Edge of Tomorrow" is pretty nifty: Think "Groundhog Day" mixed with "Starship Troopers" with a dash of the squid monsters from the "Matrix" movies. There is no Punxsutawney Phil, no annoying insurance salesman. What we get is pure action movie high: save the world from aliens and get the girl. And yes, you also get to see Tom Cruise running – that’s in his contract somehow.
Yes, Tom Cruise still gets to run, even with his exo-suit on. Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
Cruise plays Major William Cage, an ad man-turned-military talking head who uses his billion-megawatt smile to entice hundreds to sign up for a final attack on the aliens which has destroyed nearly all of Western Europe.
Cage is Jerry Maguire in a uniform: he talks a big game on winning the war but he won’t join the frontline because he thinks he’s too important for the dirty work and he’s scared of dying. That doesn’t stop General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson channeling Winston Churchill) from recruiting him anyway.
Before long, Cage is in battle with the aliens, called Mimics, along with the other grunts where he is promptly killed just minutes into battle. And then, we reset to the previous day because, by killing one of the “Alpha Mimics,” Cage has the power, or is it a curse, to reset to the previous day and start over again.
There’s a videogamesque quality to this conceit that’s just ridiculously fun. Since Cage has to relive the same day over and over again, he has to find a way to defeat the mimics who also have the power to reset time by virtue of an alien “Omega.” Cage also has to save Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Blunt), the so-called “Angel of Verdun” who becomes a symbol for the war effort.
Edge of Tomorrow is a return to form for Cruise. Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
So Cruise trains, like Bill Murray mastering the piano, but this time with a suit of armor. He also gets to die over and over; every possible sequence where his future ends in death is training for another life where he gets it right.
In a sense, "Edge of Tomorrow" is like a cure for every action movie where Major Tom doesn’t die. We get a sequence of creative “kills,” including death by Blunt (way too many), death by hit-and-run, death by Mimics, death by public speaking, death by Samurai, death by F-14, death by vampire bite, death by mission statement (or death at first hello), death by Autotune, death by booty sweat, etc…Or something to that effect.
Does Tom run in the movie? Boy, does he ever. Tom running is one of cinema's major delights and here he gets to go flat out even when he’s got 15 tons of armor on him. The Governator should give up the title long ago: Tom has made a career as Hollywood's go-to Running Man and this movie is no exception.
He’s also one of the few stars who won’t phone in a performance, even in his clunkers. At one point, we see a very desperate Cage act out the very definition of insanity – he’s certain that this new future will turn out just as badly as the others before it but presses on anyway. Because a) he’s the hero and b) Blunt. It won’t get Cruise into the Oscars but it does give this story a much-needed dose of humanity.
Blunt? She's the muse, the raison d'etre, the Eurydice to Major Tom's Orpheus, a better Andie McDowell to Tom's, uhm, Bill Murray. Vrataski is the hardened cipher who has also died a thousand deaths after gaining the Mimics’ power and then losing it later. She gives us the key that Cage’s powers may not be permanent and she’s looking for the solution before those powers run out. Only once does Blunt slip into melodrama into the role but it’s forgivable especially in light of the ending. Blunt shows that she can do action just as well as drama roles; and this role solidifies it.
Emily Blunt gets serious as the no-nonsense Rita Vrataski. Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
The effects for “Edge of Tomorrow” have their good and bad points. The exo-suits look utilitarian and the battle scenes are both chaotic and exciting. One sequence where Cruise first jumps out of the carrier in mid-air is just jaw-dropping in 3-D as the camera takes a 360-degree sweep in mid-air. It’s the Normandy landing all over again but without the gore.
All the sequences where Cruise trains for battle also pump the blood (he’s the Energizer bunny: takes a beating, keeps on ticking) and that final battle thrills because the stakes are higher.
The film drops the ball on the Mimic designs: this is very bad CGI in an effects movie. I sort of get the unfinished design: as time-jumping monsters, they are supposed to be slippery, indistinct buggers – like temporal tumbleweeds that solidify only when killed. That said, from a design perspective – the mimics’ design make no sense, just a mass of tentacles with an unfinished head. It’s the only blight in the effects department but a pretty major one. If you’re going to save the world from aliens, at least make the aliens look better than silver hairballs.
Major William Cage puts some serious hurt on some aliens. Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
The other actors also get some opportunity to shine such as Bill Paxton as a gruff Master Sergeant Farrell, Charlotte Riley as the hardened warrior Nance, and Dragomir Mrsic as the silent Kuntz.
Make no mistake, though: this is a Major Tom joint and all the major action beats belong to him. Edge’s motto is Live, Die, Repeat, which I think would have been a better title than the generic “Edge of Tomorrow.” (The original title “All You Need is Kill” from the Japanese novel was not used.)
Live, Die, Repeat could also be applied to Cruise’s blockbuster career: for every "Mission Impossible" movie, you also get an inert "Oblivion." And then he starts over. “Edge of Tomorrow” is the “Live” part and looks like a return to form to Major Tom’s action roots.
"Edge of Tomorrow" opens in Philippine theaters on June 5.