“A Cutting ‘Edge’ Sci-Fi Spectacular”

“Edge of Tomorrow”
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Directed by Doug Liman

Over the course of his impressive 30-plus year career, Tom Cruise has played a wide variety of characters, and all of them extremely well. Among his best performances: a good son who comes of age (“Risky Business”), a daredevil fighter pilot (“Top Gun”), a dim-witted pool hustler (“The Color of Money”), a paraplegic Vietnam vet (“Born on the Fourth of July”), a sleazy motivational speaker (“Magnolia”), a sports agent with a heart of gold (“Jerry Maguire”), a skilled assassin (“Collateral”) and, of course, a resourceful undercover agent (the “Mission: Impossible” movies).

The list goes on and on, but there is one character that the 51-year-old Oscar-nominee has never played before: a coward. And no surprise that he’s great at it – that is, until his heroic qualities shine through – in “Edge of Tomorrow,” an exhilarating, exciting and pulse-pounding alien invasion epic that can best be described as a cross between “War of the Worlds,” “Groundhog Day” and “Starship Troopers.” As brilliantly directed by Doug Liman (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) from a smart screenplay co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a very entertaining sci-fi spectacular that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Based on the Japanese manga novel entitled “All You Need is Kill” (written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka), and reportedly costing more than $175 million to make, “Edge of Tomorrow” tells the story of an unrelenting alien invasion that has already leveled most of Europe, and the aliens, known as Mimics, are quickly gaining ground.

Cruise plays Major William Cage, a PR rep for the U.S. Army who’s been able to coast along with his killer smile and avoid direct combat, but his luck runs out when he’s sent to the front lines on a suicide mission to hold the enemy at bay. The D-Day style attack turns into a massacre, and Cage is killed within five minutes, only to be resurrected and find himself stuck in a time loop – one where he is forced to repeat the same brutal day over and over again until he can improve his skills, break the cycle and defeat the aliens. His only hope lies with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a celebrated Special Forces warrior who holds the key to Cage’s destiny and the future of the human race.

When it comes to the concept of a flawed protagonist being stuck in a time loop until he can learn from his mistakes, it’s safe to say that the 1993 comedy classic “Groundhog Day” set the standard. But “Edge of Tomorrow” takes the process to stratospheric level, resulting in an instant sci-fi classic. It’s smart, visceral and action-packed, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s also clever, playful and loads of fun. The tone is right on the money with more humor than one might expect, and “Edge of Tomorrow” represents a superb display of bravura filmmaking – especially in the editing department, thanks to editor James Herbert.

Tom Cruise is known for throwing himself into his roles with fierce commitment, and his performance as William Cage is no exception. His journey from a shameless coward to a daring hero is a great one, and Cruise plays it perfectly as repeated encounters allow him to get a grip on the stakes and master the use of his heavy metal exoskeleton. Bill Paxton is also perfect as Cage’s relentless squad leader, but Emily Blunt is downright sensational in her first action thriller as Rita Vrataski, a strong and courageous heroine who takes a cue from Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the “Alien” movies and is not to be messed with.

After a dazzling first half, “Edge of Tomorrow” becomes a bit convoluted with exposition-heavy plot points, but that’s a minor flaw, given the film’s many merits. The production values are impressive, the fast-moving aliens are genuinely scary, the pacing is perfect and the performances are fantastic. It’s a blockbuster with brains, and when it’s over, you might find yourself in a time loop of your own – one where you can’t wait to see it over and over again. And then there’s Tom Cruise, who continues to make all the right moves, so no matter what he does next, you can bet that he’ll do it extremely well.

-Scott Mantz