With what is basically a science fiction take on Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow ticks a lot of boxes. The effects are good, the action is big, and the story is engaging if simple. It treads a similar path to 2011’s Source Code, although on a much larger scale, and is helmed by Doug Liman of The Bourne Identity. Based on a short Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, All You Need is Kill, the action plays out in a decently constructed near-future setting, where humanity struggles to repel an invading alien horde. Despite subscribing to the cliché hive mind deal these ‘Mimics’ are really beautifully designed – part octopus, part plant, and complete with incandescent colouring. Tom Cruise, who doesn’t seem to have aged of late, looks comfortable in yet another sci-fi hero role as protagonist Major Bill Cage.
Major Cage, as we quickly find out, is a spineless army PR guy who gets thrown into the thick of battle. He’s labelled a deserter and put under the watch of Master Sergeant Farell, Bill Paxton. Paxton, Twister, Weird Science and the “game over, man” guy from Aliens, is brilliant as the haughtily ignorant government tool, and gets a couple of nods to his character in Aliens. He is leading the charge on a D-Day mark II, and this places Cage on the front line in an exo-suit with no training. The battle doesn’t go so well – the aliens knew they were coming – and Cage rather comically gets disintegrated.
But then he wakes up, back where he was the previous day, utterly confused as the audience half expects Sonny and Cher to start playing. After a few futile attempts to survive his situation he teams up with the somewhat mysterious and distant war hero Rita Vrataski, a lean-looking Emily Blunt, making another foray into sci-fi after 2012’s Looper. She knows something about Cage’s condition, and with the help of charmingly befuddled former scientist Dr Carter, Noah Taylor, they work towards saving humanity. This leads to a lot of dead ends, and many dead Cruises and Blunts, sometimes to rather humorous effect.
With clever writing and editing, Edge of Tomorrow strikes a fairly good balance between repetition and progress. We get the sense Cage has relived his day from hell many, many times over, driven on only by the distant hope of success, and encouraged by the chance to spend time with Vrataski. Fortunately, though, we don’t have to sit through all of these, and so things are exciting and fresh for the audience as much as they are depressing and repetitive for Cage. The film’s style reflects this grim situation, and the colour palette is a tonne of greys and khakis, with welcome highlights of orange and blue, usually on the bad guys. Many of the scenes look deliberately desaturated, and it all works to give the war a bleak look.
It feels like everything has worked pretty well here and gelled into a solid, and very entertaining film. Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t break any new ground and won’t blow anyone’s mind, but it is a well crafted piece of high concept science fiction. Simple enough to understand, but intriguing and engaging enough to keep you involved. The only thing that lets it down is a very Hollywood ending, which doesn’t make complete sense, so it would have been nice to see them go ballsier. That said, it still works as a whole, and those alien designs are really great.