June 6, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Film Review: “Edge of Tomorrow”


EDGE OF TOMORROW:  Watch It At Home – Needed To Hit Reset One More Time

There’s a lot of inventiveness in EDGE OF TOMORROW, which combines the premise of Groundhog Day with a War of the Worlds-like plot–certainly more than the usual for a mega-budgeted Hollywood summer action movie.  That keeps it compelling for much of its length, but in the end it succumbs to the failings of its genre, and almost seems to symbolize them:  with its endless, minimally varied repetitions and sketchy characterizations, Edge essentially becomes its own franchise, and its later sections are like the installments in a series that’s already passed its peak.

The premise is complicated yet clear in the script credited to Christopher McQuarrie (star Tom Cruise’s screenwriter of choice these days) and the team of brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth.  In the future, aliens have invaded Earth, and they’re doing an expert job of mopping up the human resistance, largely because they have the uncanny ability to anticipate every strategy the Earthlings throw at them.  Mankind plans to launch one giant, last-chance attack on the invaders, and to his horror, slick, cowardly PR man for the Army Major William Cage (Cruise) finds himself part of the incursion force after he pisses off the commanding General (Brendan Gleeson).  Cage is no soldier, and he doesn’t last long amidst the marauding aliens–but he does manage to kill one of them first, and when its blood mixes with his, he inherits the ability behind their seemingly impossible knack for knowing what the soldiers are going to do before they do it:  he can infinitely re-run the day of his death, from the time he arrives at the base and meets the other soldiers in his unit, for as long as he can manage to stay alive, and he can make changes each time he “plays”.

Since Cage has few skills beyond that one, Edge has a lot of fun with the various ways he can get instantly pulverized.  After a while, though, he starts to get the hang of things, much like a video-gamer who dies time and again, learning the game as he advances forward step by painstaking step, memorizing the traps he’s going to encounter and experimenting with new alternatives.  Eventually, Cage realizes he’s going to need help from the Army’s leading hero, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who singlehandedly won the humans their biggest victory to date, and who, it develops, knows all about the power Cage suddenly has.  In each iteration of the day, she teaches him a bit more about how to survive, and gradually Cage becomes less concerned with his own skin and more devoted to the mission of finding the hidden super-alien (called the “Omega”), whose destruction would save the world.

The journey of a character from superficial ass to committed hero is one Tom Cruise has walked many times in his career, from Top Gun to Jerry Maguire to A Few Good Men, and he throws himself into the part (although, in truth, he’s now 10 years too old for it).  Blunt is remarkably convincing as a kickass warrior, a piece of casting that’s more effective than Cruise’s in some ways because it’s so surprising.  Neither of them, though, can supply niceties of character that aren’t there, and although they have a few nice quiet moments about two-thirds of the way through, mostly Edge of Tomorrow uses them as pieces to move within its matrix.  There’s none of the soulfulness that made Groundhog Day so much more than its gimmick.  (When, extremely late in the game, Edge suddenly decides to turn members of Cage’s squad into actual characters, it’s wince-inducing.)  As the story goes on and focuses more closely on the counterattack against the Omega, it becomes as silly and predictable as any other big-budget summer movie, and even in the context of the universe Edge has created, its ending makes very little sense.

Still, it’s an entertaining ride while it lasts.  Director Doug Liman created one of the most influential action-movie templates in recent years with The Bourne Identity, and his Mr. and Mrs. Smith is an underrated, very enjoyable mess.  Edge of Tomorrow is more impersonal than either of those (he’s coming off two flops), but quite well executed, especially sharp in its editing (by James Herbert).  Other credits are what you’d expect from a giant corporate production, featuring aliens who look more like machines than biological entities, and some cool super-soldier suits for Cruise, Blunt and the rest of the human combatants.

Edge of Tomorrow is nothing beyond its premise, and that can only take it so far.  While not as mindless as some of the studio spectacles that surround it, it’s more proficient than smart, and less memorable than merely diverting.  Hollywood also has its way of stopping time and resetting scripts back to the point where they’ve fallen apart–they’re called rewrites.  Edge could have used another one of those.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."