LET’S START WITH the enormous, often insurmountable negative in “Edge of Tomorrow”. It stars Tom, look at me acting, Cruise. That said, those scenes in which he’s required to do more than run, jump, shoot and die are an absolute delight. We’re introduced to Tom’s character Cage, an Army Major who’s really no more than a cock-sure ad guy turned PR man (he used to run his own ad agency, wouldn’t you just know!) whose never seen combat and who now finds himself Shanghai-ed into a front-line army unit.
Set sometime in the ever-dystopian future, the unit is charged with taking the battle to the Mimics, an alien race bent on world destruction. (When we join the story, the Mimics have destroyed the Eurozone and are bent on destroying the UK. They’re basically Tories.) Cage cringes, whines, complains and tries to slither out of his new role as an officer who’s actually outside the office (bludgeoned by a heavily disguised Bill Paxton as a Master Sergeant)
We’re offered in these opening scenes a desperate, cowardly Cruise, confused, fumbling with his weaponry and stumbling around in battle pretty much as most people would be. Imagine Tom Cruise as an ordinary mortal! (And you are reminded that just occasionally, Tom can still surprise us with flashes of excellence as he did in “Tropic Thunder” and “Collateral”)
And as he engages us with this all too human Cruise, bang! Shock horror, he’s killed. Over and over again. For the story centers around the uber idea of how we can learn from the past to influence the present (hey, based upon the nothing we learned from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. we know this is mere fiction). Or in sci-fi terms, how one army major, having been splattered with the blood of an Alfa alien absorbs the alien’s ability to leap across time into an infinity of new beginnings, learning as he does so, how to anticipate and evade disaster. Call it Groundhog Armageddon.
As Cage keeps being killed and reborn, each time with more knowledge and greater sills, he morphs from an incompetent real person into Tom Cruise. Saviour of the Universe.
As Alfa savior he teams up with a supremely buff and fit Rita (Emily Blunt), the poster-child of the gender-neutral army of the future (As I noted, it’s mere fiction).
Director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) does a great job with what could have been a really very repetitive story. A really very repetitive story. A really… No matter how often Cage is zapped back in time to snap awake from his last death, the story moves ever-propulsively forward, with brilliantly executed battle and action sequences.
Cruise and Blunt don’t exhibit nearly as much on-screen chemistry in the movie as they do in the endless talk shows. But no matter. We’re long gone past pretending that Tom is a romantic hero; so it’s all action all the time with but a few perfunctionary interludes to pretend that either he or we care about their past traumas.
The aliens Cruise and Blunt have to take on are nasty, slithering, metallic, squid-like monsters. The high-tech fast-moving offspring of a forced mating of Predator and Alien. Production designer Oliver Scholl, who also gave us “Independence Day” offers us a credible image of a world destroyed, and of course those slithering monsters.
“Edge of Tomorrow” pretends to be nothing other than mindless fast moving action entertainment that has enough intrigue and ingenuity to be more than a cinematic video game. But what it lacks in the angst of Peter Parker or Captain America, it makes up for in buoyant entertainment.