Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Review

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n a simple sense, a perfect film is one that sets up appropriate expectations and delivers on them. Edge of Tomorrow knows exactly the kind of story it wants to tell and focuses on that singular goal with rigid determination. With that in mind, this film is tight, with nary an extraneous scene or character, but that also means there aren’t any meaningful surprises. The story goes exactly where viewers expect it to. And while predictability is a debatable point, it’s almost moot since the audience for this film gets exactly what it wants.

In the near future, Earth is invaded by an alien race referred to as Mimics for their ability to seemingly predict and adapt to any fighting force on the planet, which renders the invaders undefeatable. In this dire time, the world needs people to enlist to fight the Mimics. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) specializes in PR, appearing on TV news circuits to convince the world to support the war effort, while not doing any of the fighting himself. Unfortunately, with essentially no combat training or experience, he’s forced into the front lines where he comes into contact with the enemy and dies, but the encounter leaves Cage stuck inexplicably in a time loop. Every time he dies he wakes up on the morning of the same day only to be forced onto the battlefield where he dies again and again. It’s not until he meets Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) that he begins to understand what’s happened to him and how his circumstances can help fight the Mimics.

Edge of Tomorrow is satisfying on every level. The casting is spot on and, with such a high concept story, it’s nice to see that the production didn’t rely on the visual effects or the time loop gimmick to carry the film. Instead, trustworthy and competent actors were placed in key roles to ensure that audiences never had to worry about a poorly delivered line or incompletely conveyed emotion. Brendan Gleeson as no-nonsense General Brigham and Bill Paxton as happy warrior Staff Sergeant Farell fill the screen with their characters despite having very limited screentime. For good measure, the minor characters are all fresh faces who manage to carve out memorable performances with their handful of lines. And, of course, the leads are wonderful to watch and have fantastic chemistry. Emily Blunt is completely believable as a frontline badass with her perfectly toned body and grim demeanor, yet still capable of hinting at a soft underbelly beneath her armored exterior. And Tom Cruise shows off his always reliable ability to transition effortlessly through a wide range of emotions while also doing the heavy lifting in regards to the action. Audiences will feel safe in the hands of this cast.

The visual presentation is also stellar. The CGI is seamless, allowing audiences to focus on the movie instead of reconciling inconsistencies in their minds. Furthermore, the staging of the action and the cinematography wisely keeps physical interaction between Mimics and real actors to a minimum, keeping the willing suspension of disbelief from breaking. Just as important as the implementation of the CGI is the set and costume design. The mechanized “jackets” that the soldiers wear is the perfect blend between out-of-this-world sci-fi technology and ad hoc pragmatism with their thrown-together roughness. The set design is also a lesson in walking the line between fantastical and realism. For example, the military base, including its special forces training arena, feels futuristic, yet functional; farfetched, yet familiar. The only reasonable complaint one might have of the visuals is the lack of gore and downplayed violence. There are a lot deaths in Edge of Tomorrow, but they’re mostly bloodless and clinical, reducing the necessary grittiness of many of the war scenes. Nevertheless, audiences will get the point.

What the film benefits the most from is an excellent script. Without having read the book All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, it’s impossible to know how closely the film adhered to the source material, but it’s safe to say that the screenplay is thorough and straightforward, but clever and funny when it needs to be. Inevitable comparisons will be made to the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day (1993), but while that was a character and existential exploration, the time loop mechanic in Edge of Tomorrow is purely utilitarian. The film does cut some storytelling corners – most likely for time – and audiences will probably feel a little cheated that some characters die off-screen, but overall the movie feels like a complete story.

Edge of Tomorrow is one of the few films that perfectly capture the spectacle of movies. It has everything a Hollywood blockbuster should have: big explosions, high stakes, over-the-top action and a clever story. Paired with excellent visual instincts and a phenomenal cast, Edge of Tomorrow is a must-see film of the summer.