Groundhog D-Day – ★★★★
Let’s call a spade a spade. Edge of Tomorrow looked a bit crap when those first trailers and posters were released. It seemed like Warner Brothers just tried to take four or five successful Sci-Fi films and threw them into a melting pot hoping that the result would pass muster with audiences. Guess what? It worked.
The film tells the story of Tom Cruise’s Lt. Col. Bill Cage an army PR man who have never fought in a war but is said to have sold the idea to millions of young men and women. For some reason he is demoted by Brendan Gleeson’s General and thrown into a combat situation fighting for the NATO-like combined forces. Did I mention the film is set some years in the future where the big evil enemy isn’t the Nazis or the Russians but is actually an alien race known as Mimics. In effect Cage is set up for a suicide mission. These aliens have got a hive mind mentality abilities so fly up out of the ground and just zap you to death. Lo and behold Cage gets kills as he is burned to death as one of them bleeds on him – BUT – amazingly the blood throws him back in time to the beginning of his day to fit the battle again! Playing opposite Cage (remember he is played by Cruise not Nic Cage) is Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski who has killed more Mimics than anyone and is considered responsible for keeping the alien invasion at bay. After Cage goes through his day a few times he eventually gets to know Rita and learns that she “once had what he had”.
To get to the point of Rita and Cage knowing each other and working together is a lot of fun and calls to mind Bill Murray’s journey in Groundhog Day or Jake Gyllenhaal’s Source Code. At this stage we know how these time loops work in films so you get lots of smash cuts, jokes, alternate camera angles to action we’ve already seen, plays on dialogue that we saw a few minutes ago and so on. The pair have surprisingly good chemistry and you’re genuinely engaged in their plight even if the fact that he can just keep hitting reset means it’s more frustrating than worrying when he dies. At times you’ll feel like you’re watching someone play an amped-up computer game where it’s just a series of goals that you repeat and repeat as you try to make progress until the end. This isn’t meant as a slight on Christopher McQuarrie and co’s screenplay as the time loops are handled really well in the edit, showing us just enough new stuff each time around. The final scene will generate a bit of a groan though, you suspect that Tom Cruise’s agent specifies he has the right to write any film’s closing few minutes to suit himself.
Director Doug Liman did the first Jason Bourne film, 2002’s Bourne Identity and the Brangelina vehicle Mr and Mrs Smith but he would hardly be considered an elite action director but he’s crafted a really logical, simple, sub-2 hour film here. The body armour and near future setting calls to mind Neill Blomkamp’s disappointing Elysium but while Edge of Tomorrow lacks the world-building and attention to detail, it also features none of the pretensions and ideas above its station that Elysium had. It’s unlikely you’ll be talking about this film in a decade’s time, but in terms of modern-day Tom Cruise solo adventures it certainly trumps Oblivion and Jack Reacher. Not bad for a 51-year old.
A quick word on Emily Blunt. Imagine if upon seeing The Devil Wears Prada that she’d now be turning in performances like this. It’s a natural progression from time-loop spectacular Looper, but she’s got a hell of a lot more to do here. She has probably never been in as good a condition as this but she deserves a burger and a week off the yoga now that the film is out.
Edge of Tomorrow works as a lesson in expectations. Go in expecting trash from your summer popcorn blockbusters and sometimes you just might be pleasantly surprised.
Released across Ireland on May 30th 2014