Initially, I found it tempting to write off Edge of Tomorrow as the disposable shlock that last year's Oblivion turned out to be. The trailers left me empty and bored, and it irritated me to watch Tom Cruise give apocalyptic science fiction another go. Now, after caving and deciding to give it a shot, I can almost see Tom Cruise in my mind's eye, shaking his head and remarking with a smirk, “Ye of little faith.” I hate to admit it, but he has the right to be smug. Stunning visuals, impeccable acting, and a sturdy plot structure play key roles in solidifying [Edge of Tomorrow](movie:267902) as one of the most satisfying action films of the last few years.
As Earth threatens to fall to an advanced race of aliens known as “Mimics,” humanity has found itself at a loss. Every assault on their extra-terrestrial aggressors proves futile, suggesting that the aliens know exactly how each battle goes down before it goes down. The tide finally turns when Major William Cage (Cruise), a cowardly, untrained soldier with a crippling fear of heights, unwittingly gains the ability to relive the previous day every time he dies. A fellow soldier, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) discovers his new power and trains him to use it as a weapon against the Mimics. With time running out and victory becoming increasingly unlikely, Cage and Vrataski embark on one final, crazy mission to end the war and save humankind.
The combined star power of Cruise and Blunt carries the film with ease, which is pleasing and surprising at the same time. One of the many things that worried me when I first glimpsed the trailers was how the film would handle having Cruise and Blunt as its two leads. Almost immediately, the film presents their relationship as a platonic one that remains so until the last half-hour. Even then, the film refuses to emphasize a romance between the two, a decision that ends up working in the film's favor. Bill Paxton and Brendon Gleeson excel as fairly prominent supporting characters, as do many of the relative unknowns that populate this picture.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that a Mimic is basically just a screaming blob of tentacles? Talk about thinking outside the box! While that may sound odd and maybe discouraging to people hoping my review will sell them on the movie, it's actually some impressive creature design. Why fight a standard martian when you can prove your mettle against a shrieking mass of flailing tentacles that can control time and anticipate your every move?
Despite its numerous triumphs, Edge of Tomorrow is not without its missteps. Strangely enough, most of its issues lie in the way it was shot and have nothing to do with the story or its characters. This turns out to be both an advantage and a hindrance for the film. On one hand, it's refreshing to see a movie that juggles its plot and its characters well while at the same time delivering the high-stakes action and electrifying suspense that audiences have come to expect. On another, some of the cinematography leaves much to be desired and even takes away from a handful of key scenes in the movie. The film opens and closes on a high note, but a choppy middle act proves itself to be far less engaging. Some of the editing and camera angles don't work quite as well as director Doug Liman and his crew may have hoped, a problem that he luckily addresses and deals with by the time the credits roll.
Edge of Tomorrow could have easily been a cinematic crime, but instead it proves to be an emotionally satisfying, surprisingly thoughtful film that raises the bar for Cruise and all of the many roles he'll land in the future. Don't let the film's lackluster box-office performance talk you out of such a great experience.