Edge of Tomorrow is being marketed as an intelligent blockbuster – in fact the tag-line itself is a “blockbuster with brains”. In this instance intellect seems to constitute as time-travel, the second movie to do so in as many weeks, following X-Men: Days of Future Past. This does elevate it above the average brainless blockbuster, but where Doug Liman’s film stands in the unique way that it incorporates this narrative device into the action genre.
The film drops us straight into the action, with a brief, five year prologue showing us how an alien race known as Mimics have taken over most of Europe. As a resistance, Tom Cruise’s Major Bill Cage from the United Defence Forces goes and visits General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) in London in order to launch a final operation to wipe out the Mimics once and for all. Unexpectedly, Brigham orders Cage to fight in the first wave of attacks the next day instead and despite Cage’s protestations, he is arrested and sent to the London base at Heathrow airport as a deserter with the other soldiers. When he wakes up, stripped of rank, he is forced to live the same day over and over again until he can find a way to win the war against the invaders.
The main draw from the trailer was watching Tom Cruise being killed. There is something extremely satisfying about humanising Ethan Hunt/Jack Reacher as a pathetic, inexperienced soldier, being dropped in at the deep end. Given his usual know-it-all self, watching him die multiple times as he comes to grips with his situation is both inspired and hilarious. It’s Cruise’s best role for years and there are several laugh-out-loud moments, particularly with the exclamations and screams that he makes as he fails to make it through each day.
The computer-game feel of the movie is also beneficial and the element kill, learn from your mistakes, die and then re-spawn to try and improve on your previous attempts is very reminiscent of the third-person shooter. The Halo-like fighting suits with assorted weapons and unlimited ammo also reinforce this and the opening sequence involving fighting on a French beach is reminiscent of a Call of Duty level. Ironically, Hollywood is notorious for terrible computer game adaptations, but this is a worthy replacement and by far the best type seen of the level -upon-level structure of a game.
The plot is, understandably, quite complex and there has to be an extensive amount of explaining from the cast, especially Emily Blunt’s Rita and Noah Taylor’s Dr. Carter. They fill Cruise in with the time-travelling rules of this particular movie and once he knows the laws, he is able to manipulate them. The appeal of never knowing whether Cruise has already been through this particular section before is enthralling and leads to some of the films best twists and turns.
Blunt is once again excellent and is becoming something of a Sci-Fi queen with recent strong roles in Looper and The Adjustment Bureau. She isn’t just there to provide Cruise with support and the way that the story shifts from Cruise being trained by her character, Rita, initially, to a complete role reversal as Cruise adapts to his situation; allows her to play tough (one of her characters nicknames is Full Metal Bitch) but also the confused and slightly emotional sidekick.
This is the best blockbuster of 2014 so far and in an incredibly strong year to date, this is no mean feat. It shows that despite director Doug Liman going off the boil a bit recently, with Mr and Mrs Smith, Jumper and Fair Game, he can still rival The Bourne Identity, his finest work.