Edge of Tomorrow

By on June 17, 2014

I’ve heard of déjà vu, but this is ridiculous. In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Tom Cruise ventures once again into the sci-fi/action breach, a well-traveled land he has visited multiple times in the likes of “Oblivion,” “The War of the Worlds” and “Minority Report.” Only this time, his actions are repeated within the space of the movie itself. It’s basically art imitating real life, or better yet, “Starship Troopers” by way of “Groundhog Day.”

To wit, Cruise plays Cage, a PR guy for the military whose job it is to sell civilians on the fact that, with minimal training, they can become “super soldiers” outfitted with robotic gear that renders them warriors to be reckoned with. One day, he meets with General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson, aka “Mad-eye Mooney” from the “Harry Potter” series), who orders him to be the face of his product on the frontlines on a beach raid, a la Normandy, where he will be embedded in a unit and film his handiwork in action for real.

Cage refuses, and even tries to blackmail Brigham, which results in his being arrested, knocked out and sent there anyway, instead stripped of his rank and forced to become a private in a dubious band of ruffians that will be among the frontlines anyway. Whoops! Once there, he does his best to convince Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton, well within his wheelhouse) he’s not who they say he is, and faster than you can say “All ashore!” Cage is being unceremoniously dumped in the water outside of the beach where aliens are currently attacking with full force everyone that gets in their way.

Tom Cruise does his best to beat the rush of critical judgment that he's repeating himself in "Edge of Tomorrow." Courtesy of imdb.com

Tom Cruise does his best to beat the rush of critical judgment that he’s repeating himself in “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Needless to say, Cage is out of his element and then some and gets himself killed, only a funny thing happens and when he dies, he returns to the moment he woke up on a ship bound for the beach battle after being knocked out. It then happens again and again, with Cage returning every time he dies, which is basically every time. A chance encounter with the fierce Rita (Emily Blunt) reveals that she once had this ability as well and that there is a reason for it. With her help he trains to become a better fighter and manages to get a little further each time until an endgame finally reveals itself.

So, it’s basically like playing a videogame with unlimited lives. If you keep at it, naturally you’re going to learn things and eventually figure out how to beat the game. But can an all-seeing, all-knowing opponent be beat? It can if you know the right tricks to execute, just like any videogame. Nothing is infallible, or we wouldn’t have a movie, right? The question is, will Cage have to sacrifice some pawns, including Rita and possibly himself, to win out in the end?

The sad thing is, this is probably the best sci-fi film Cruise has done since the classic Spielberg flick “Minority Report,” IMHO. Yet, ironically, given the “Edge of Tomorrow” premise, by now he has gone back to the well one too many times for most people’s liking, resulting in the film underperforming at the box office, at least domestically. It’s not a bad film, it just smacks of the same thing he’s done several times before, and that’s not a good thing. No actor wants to be typecast, yet Cruise is hell-fire determined to do just that with all these sci-fi/action films he’s been churning out year after year, near-incessantly.

Cruise is a great actor when he picks something challenging: witness his go-for-broke turns in “Magnolia,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and even “Tropic Thunder.” Hell, he even won over Anne Rice with his role as Lestat in “Interview with the Vampire” and she was completely against the casting, initially. But all too often he settles for more of the same thing he’s been doing since the 90s-era, circa “Mission Impossible,” which is to say, action, action and more action.

Sure, he’s occasionally managed something interesting there, too, i.e. “Collateral,” but a look at his upcoming film slate doesn’t exactly inspire confidence: yet another installment of “Mission Impossible,” a sequel to the underperforming “Jack Reacher” and, God help us all, another “Top Gun” movie. Cruise really needs to take more risks before audiences simply turn their back on him in exchange for someone new and shiny. Hell, I hated “Rock of Ages,” but at least it was a side of Cruise we hadn’t seen before. He needs to take more risks, if not along that lines necessarily, then at least something quirky and unpredictable. Maybe writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson can find something interesting for him to play, a la “Magnolia.”

Whatever the case, he needs to do something about this sooner than later before audience turns their collective backs on him entirely. Ironically, though the end result isn’t that much different from what we’ve seen him do before, “Edge of Tomorrow” does at least boast a different kind of character for him. His Cage is a total wuss and coward that is so afraid of serving his country that he tries to weasel his way out if it using blackmail. That’s certainly new, and it makes Cruise seem completely vulnerable and weak, something he’s never done quite like this before.

Emily Blunt takes aim at being an sci-fi/action heroine in "Edge of Tomorrow" Courtesy of imdb.com

Emily Blunt takes aim at being an sci-fi/action heroine in “Edge of Tomorrow”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Unfortunately, as the film progress, he eventually becomes a force to be reckoned with, and the Cruise we’re much more used to seeing. Likewise, it’s fantastic that the most kick-ass warrior in the film is a woman, Emily Blunt’s character. But these things are not enough to garner much more than mild excitement early on. As the films wears on, it becomes more and more a typical sci-fi/action flick and by the time we get to the twist at the end, it’s hard not to be a little underwhelmed- not to mention, it’s a bit of a cheat.

As such, I can’t in good conscience give “Edge of Tomorrow” more than a C+. It’s not a bad film, and not without its moments and a decent sense of humor about itself, but it just isn’t enough in the end. You should also probably skip the 3D version as well, as it doesn’t add that much to the proceedings. Honestly, though, this is Dollar Theater material at best, and at worst, a rental on Redbox or the like. That’s the trouble with a movie like this: you’ve seen it all before and better. It’s just sad that the film itself feels like it’s stuck on repeat.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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