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Edge of Tomorrow Movie Review

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) movie poster Edge of Tomorrow

Theatrical Release: June 6, 2014 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Doug Liman / Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay); Hiroshi Sakurazaka (novel All You Need Is Kill)

Cast: Tom Cruise (Major William Cage), Emily Blunt (Sergeant Rita Vrataski), Brendan Gleeson (General Brigham), Bill Paxton (Major Sergeant Farell), Jonas Armstrong (Skinner), Tony Way (Kimmel), Kick Gurry (Griff), Franz Drameh (Ford), Dragomir Mrsic (Kuntz), Charlotte Riley (Nance), Masayoshi Haneda (Takeda), Terence Maynard (Cruel Sergeant), Noah Taylor (Dr. Carter), Lara Pulver (Karen Lord), Madeleine Mantock (Julie)

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With Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise throws his hat back into the summer movie ring. For a long time, Cruise was one of the kings of the season, propelling movies like The Firm, Mission: Impossible, Minority Report and War of the Worlds to high heights at the box office.
Lately, though, the actor who used to regularly cross the $100 million mark domestically has seen diminishing returns and the off-season opening of his previous project, Oblivion, seemed like a concession. Now, Cruise is back and ready to test his mettle against superheroes, fairy tale villains, and giant lizards, with dragons and giant robots right around the corner.

Edge stars Cruise as Major William Cage, a U.S. Army PR guy who tries to put a positive spin on the military's ongoing wars with Mimics, deadly alien creatures. Pointing out he's not prepared for combat, Cage objects when he is assigned to the front lines of a European strike by a no-nonsense British general (Brendan Gleeson). Cage finds himself in handcuffs, addressed and treated like a lowly private by those in charge, specifically a mustachioed Bill Paxton as a Kentuckian Master Sergeant. Entirely unfamiliar with the weaponized exoskeleton he dons, Cage could not be much worse-equipped for his airplane drop into intense battle. He can't even figure out how to turn the safety off.

Thrown into combat without training, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is quickly overwhelmed in "Edge of Tomorrow."

Soon, Cage is face to face with the large, fast, and powerful enemy. Moments later, he awakens back in those handcuffs, getting the same gruff treatment and chilly introductions from the Kentuckian and his fellow J-Squad soldiers. That's right, it's Groundhog Day!

It doesn't seem to be February 2nd, but Major/Private Cage is in the same predicament as Bill Murray's grumpy meteorologist in the brilliant 1993 comedy set around that holiday. Repeatedly, Cage dies and wakes up in those handcuffs by a sergeant calling him a maggot. Cage's ability to "reset a day" is uncommon but not unprecedented. He discovers as much when the most decorated soldier around, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), known as the Angel of Verdun for her heroics there (and, more colloquially, Full Metal Bitch) recognizes his gift as one she herself used to possess.

Rita and a mechanic (Noah Taylor) who has also experienced reset powers first-hand brief Cage on what he has to do to help mankind defeat their oppressors in the one-sided beach attack Cage keeps reliving. Rita provides the necessary physical training, enabling Cage to approach the battle like a video game he has played before but yet to master. Each death brings them a little closer to the goal for the next go around.

Decorated Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) recognizes Cage's gift from her own personal experiences. Tom Cruise goes for it in "Edge of Tomorrow."

Edge of Tomorrow is not the first film to borrow from Groundhog Day. Just last year, Richard Curtis' About Time did so extensively. Whereas that film still mined the concept for romantic comedy, Edge applies it to futuristic science fiction action and reveals it to be a surprisingly strong fit. Adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka's 2004 light graphic novel All You Need Is Kill, Edge makes strong use of its premise, seizing the rich editing opportunities afforded and turning them into some efficient laughs.
But it also takes its future conflict seriously and invites us to do the same, imbuing action scenes with clear stakes and meaning. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Jumper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) does a pretty outstanding job of keeping this big, loud, expensive summer movie human and investible.

Cruise deserves some credit for once again giving us a compelling, sympathetic protagonist. It's been nearly thirty years since Top Gun and Cruise has handled these duties so many times. That he can do it again without boring us and while making it look effortless is testament to his considerable talent. He may not often stretch himself as an actor or stray from such action heroics, but Cruise still pulls them off as well as anyone and continues to do so while defying age. If Cruise looked anything like a man who will soon turn 52, it might stretch credibility, but without the benefit of a side-by-side comparison, he looks barely older and less nimble than he did in the '90s.

Blunt has interestingly gravitated to sci-fi thrillers, adding to a resume that already includes the respectable Looper and The Adjustment Bureau. Such films aren't ones that make you think of her as an obvious leading lady, but the English actress somehow seems entirely comfortable with such action-packed American productions and manages to class them up slightly instead of treating them as mindless cash-ins until the next indie dramedy or costume piece arises.

Edge is the latest Cruise movie to bolster the career of Christopher McQuarrie, who struggled to live up to the promise of his Oscar-winning breakout screenplay for The Usual Suspects. Over the past six years, McQuarrie has rebounded as the writer of Valkyrie and the writer-director of Jack Reacher, two above-average Cruise vehicles whose strong but not quite outstanding tallies may serve as a template for how Edge performs with both critics and audiences. Obviously, Warner Bros.' expectations for this should be much higher than those two, with a steep $178 million production budget. But, though word-of-mouth should be good, I think the film will have difficulty making money. Trailers do not do a good job of conveying the film's appeal and that title, while arguably better than the working one drawn from the source text, is extremely generic and almost immediately forgotten. Outside of the Mission: Impossible series, Cruise hasn't starred in a movie grossing over $100 M domestically since 2005's War of the Worlds. I am not betting on this to be the film that breaks that streak.

Rewriting a script also attributed to Fair Game, Get On Up brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, McQuarrie will extend his partnership with Cruise as the director of the next Mission: Impossible film, currently in pre-production for Christmas 2015 release.

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Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: X-Men: Days of Future Past Godzilla Maleficent Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Tom Cruise: Oblivion Jack Reacher The Firm Top Gun Knight and Day Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol The Color of Money Rock of Ages
Emily Blunt: Looper Arthur Newman Gulliver's Travels Dan in Real Life Gnomeo & Juliet | Directed by Doug Liman: Jumper
Written by Christopher McQuarrie: Jack the Giant Slayer The Tourist The Usual Suspects
Elysium World War Z Gravity District 9 Pacific Rim

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Reviewed June 6, 2014.

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