Spoiler: I like it
It’s a cliché that the futures envisaged in science fiction really reflect present day concerns. Edge of Tomorrow, however, breaks that pattern. It seems permeated by the imagery and ideas of last century’s World Wars.
It follows a senior military PR man played by Tom Cruise who is able to persuade thousands to enlist in a war against alien invaders yet is too cowardly to fight himself. So it is to his horror that he finds himself forced to take part in a landing on the French coast which aims to retake Europe from the invaders. In the ensuing battle he is killed but not before being infused with alien blood that traps him in a time loop. The result is that he winds up living the same day over and over again Groundhog style.
This is an OK premise but it is in the execution that the film really finds its form. Particularly refreshing is how the action scenes are kept in their place: they serve the plot and the characters rather than the other way round as has become so common of late.
This is just one of a number of strengths of an excellent script by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. While the tone of the film overall is quite sombre they inject quite a bit of humour into the proceedings especially regarding Cruise’s characters being a fish out of water as an infantryman.
While one can (and probably will) notice the occasional plothole, by and large it feels pretty convincingly worked out. This applies not only to the story itself but also how it impacts the protagonists. One does get a good feel why for all its military advantages, a cosmic reset button would be a horrible thing to live with.
And Edge of Tomorrow does a good job delivering believable and interesting characters. The main character’s arc as someone who gradually becomes a hero by being repeatedly forced to act heroically is well-chosen. However, Cruise’s performance is merely adequate, so he finds schemes keep being stolen from him. Initially that is by Bill Paxton (last seen as the villain in Agents of Shield) as a spectacularly over the top Sergeant Major. However, for most of the film it is Emily Blunt’s Rita, a steely British soldier who commands the most of the audience’s attention. There’s been a fair amount of criticism of the way Hollywood drops a single ‘strong female character’ into an otherwise male dominated cast. However, Rita rather transcends the limitation of this category. She may be defined by her toughness but that doesn’t make her 2D. We come to understand where this hardness comes from and how it fits into her personality as a whole. This is an all the more impressive achievement given that strictly speaking she doesn’t develop as a character because she’s constantly being ‘reset.’ Rita is not only well written but well-acted by Blunt: she brings a real conviction to the role which is well summed up by her physical transformation from a slender actress to a muscle-bound squaddie.
(If anyone from Warner Brothers is reading R.E. the rumours of Blunt playing Catwomen. Yes please!)
I’ve seen some reviews of Edge of Tomorrow which have compared it unfavourably to Starship Troopers on account of its lack of satirical edge. This doesn’t seem fair to me. Edge of Tomorrow dramatizes rather than satirises war. It clearly harkens back to the two World Wars. A key battle against the aliens been fought at Verdun and much of the film’s running time is taken up with a landing on the beaches of occupied France. In this context the power to replay events and steer them towards a happier conclusion becomes rather poignant. Since events like the Sarajevo Assassination, the Battle of the Somme or the Munich Agreement, millions of people must have wished they could go back and change them.
With the latest apparently dumb and soulless Transformers film on course to make upwards of a billion dollars, it is reassuring to know that science fiction films with brains and heart are still being made.
Verdict: 9/10 – An intelligent and emotionally intelligent film with a great performance from Blunt