Saturday 31 May 2014


(Doug Liman, 2014)

Edge of Tomorrow is one of those films that takes loads of elements from other films – images, ideas, plot points, character beats, clichés – and mixes them together in a new recipe. Just when you think there's too much going on, or something is cheesy, well then that's when somehow Liman makes it work, and then some.
It takes a time-loop plot, perhaps best seen in cinema in Groundhog Day, and sends Cage (Tom Cruise), a PR man given a rank in the US Army who is lacking any combat skills, into battle against an alien army known as Mimics, who are just the English Channel away from conquering all of Europe. This setting - a London quivering under the threat of invasion, an enormous army waiting to attack the French coast - suggests a hundred WW2 films, as does the D-Day style carnage that awaits the soldiers, all wearing augmented battle suits, when they land on the beach.
Cruise dies, terrified, but in doing so he kills a larger Mimic, and is covered in its blood as he dies. Turns out this was a special Mimic, an "Alpha", and he has acquired some of it's ability to Reset the day after death. And so he repeats that same day again and again, acquiring fighting skills as he goes, and finally encountering Rita, "the angel of Verdun", (Emily Blunt), a soldier famed for killing literally hundreds of Mimics in an earlier battle. Rita understands what he is experiencing, having been through it herself, and together they set about trying to use his ability to defeat the alien army and their own commanders, blind to the reality of the Mimic invasion.
Liman is one of that generation of American directors who is blandly accomplished - he can shoot action well, he can do character scenes, comedy, he has a fine eye for landscape...and yet a real sensibility is missing. But it means he can service an entertainment like this one perfectly well. The script is by the Butterworth brothers, Jez (who is a legitimately brilliant playwright) and John-Henry, alongside Chris McQuarrie, and though it is full of action, it is character-driven, as Cage grows more responsible and empathetic and Rita softens and lets him in. 
The leads have no chemistry but are both good in their own right - Cruise looks increasingly haunted and vulnerable as he ages, suiting this part, while Blunt has always possessed an inner fierceness which makes her ideal as the passionate warrior-woman. They are supported by a rich cast made up of some British character actors, with Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor and Bill Paxton all excellent as more vivid presences.
Only the predictable climax is something of a let-down, but even then the coda makes it work. This is summer blockbuster cinema done right - smart, well-paced, stylishly slick, utterly satisfying.

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