The fine folks over at Warner Bros.' Home Entertainment division were kind enough to send me a copy of the Blu-ray/DVD for Tom Cruise's trippy time-traveler [Edge of Tomorrow](movie:267902), so I thought I'd be kind enough to return the favor and write them up a review.
First things first. It is a damned shame this movie didn't do well in theaters, because it absolutely should have. As I watched it, I found myself thinking, How? HOW did this movie not become instantly beloved by audiences? Critics raved, but audiences couldn't be bothered - why?
The problem was twofold. First, being released only a few months after [Oblivion](movie:357477), audiences immediately associated Tom Cruise in another sci-fi flick as adding up to another bad movie. But had the release dates for the two movies been reversed, we'd have been looking at a very different outcome: At the moment, Oblivion sits at a mediocre 54% on Rotten Tomatoes while Edge of Tomorrow is an A-level 90% - one percent higher, I might add, than [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973).
The second issue was that, putting it bluntly, Warner Bros. completely bungled the marketing on the film (though the below animated box art is very cool). It's a sad thing when a movie that deserves better is the victim of a muddled marketing campaign, and Edge of Tomorrow very much suffered from this, being packaged as a straightforward, Cruise-macho action flick when the darkly humorous, mind-trippy, ballsy movie was so much more. And so much more, it is.
The opening scene sets the stage for this "more than meets the eye" theme that runs throughout the entire movie when we're introduced to Cruise's Major William Cage of the United States Army, whose impressive title belies the fact that he's never actually seen active combat duty. He's nothing more than a talking head, chosen as a tool of recruitment for his media background, good looks, and slick, charming spiel, using the exploits of decorated combat veteran Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to entice young recruits with stories of valor and grandeur. His skills are as vital to the cause of recruiting new soldiers to the war efforts against the insect-like alien race of Mimics as the actual soldiers themselves, but Cage harbors no delusions about his bravery or combat skills - he's never actually been in battle and doesn't want to be.
Unfortunately for Cage, what he thinks is a routine meeting with General Brigham, Commander of the Western Allies (played with a wink and a nod by the always great Brendan Gleeson) turns into far more than he expected when Brigham informs him he wants Cage to accompany the troops on the front lines as their media rep. Despite Cage pulling out every trick in his not-inconsiderable arsenal to try to weasel his way out of going in a scene that is laugh-out-loud funny, he soon finds himself shipped to a military base where he is stripped of his rank and shuffled in with the rest of the combat troops.
Things go downhill with a quickness when Cage is strapped into a mechanized battle suit he has no idea how to use, boarded into a cargo plane he has no idea how to deploy from, and dropped right into the middle of brutal combat he has no idea how to navigate. Of course, it goes about as well as you might expect, and Cage is killed almost immediately - but not before two things happen: One, he sees Sgt. Vrataski die horribly right in front of him, and two, he grabs a land mine as he's dying, blowing up the Alpha-level Mimic who jumps on top of him, drenching himself with its acid-like blood.
Cut to a scene of Cage waking up in a panic in the same spot he had awakened the previous day, and let the mindtrip begin. From that point on, Cage is stuck in a time loop where he has to repeat his actions over and over again in a hellish, life-or-death sort of Groundhog Day. Only the act of death completely resets the time loop - if he gets injured badly or paralyzed, he'll be useless and the mission over. Each day he repeats, he gets a bit better and learns a bit more about what's happening to him: Being splattered with the Alpha's blood created a mental connection between him and the Mimic Omega, which can control time. His mission is to escort Sgt. Vrataski through the increasingly-dangerous, bloody battle to the Omega Mimic, which Vrataski will then destroy.
And in this, the film executes the time loops almost flawlessly. Anyone who has ever played a video game and gotten stuck on a particularly hard quest or mission will completely identify with Cage's struggles as he dies (usually brutally) over and over again, but memorizes a little bit more of the deadly dance each time until it becomes muscle memory. Messing with time is always a dangerous line to walk in film - there are so many ways a screenwriter or filmmaker can create a paradox, contradict themselves, or leave huge plot holes that just don't make sense when examined closely. And Edge of Tomorrow is not perfect in this regard - no film ever truly can be, particularly not when the laws of time are being bent - but it comes damn close without ever getting repetitive, and for a time loop film, that is impressive. Truly, if the film's editors don't garner an Oscar nomination for their work, I'll be surprised.
The two leads deserve a huge amount of credit for how entertaining the film is, too. Cruise is vintage Tom Cruise in this film; you watch him and are reminded of why he was (and mostly still is) the world's biggest star, maybe the last real "movie star" we have. His natural charisma is ballin' out of control as Cage. Even though he starts off as someone you don't initially want to root for, Cruise injects his fish-out-of water role with so much black humor and panache that you almost immediately get on board with his mission, each time loop reset becoming an act of discovery not just for Cage, but for the viewer.
And Emily Blunt is equally as magnetic. Cruise may be the one on all the posters and in the mechsuit, but it's Blunt's Sgt. Vrataski who is 37 kinds of badass. She's competent, deadly, and she has no time to baby Cage or his learning curve. Her brutal, no-holds-barred training sessions are some of the most funny scenes in the entire film, with Cage desperately trying to talk her out of killing him to reset the time loop every time he screws up and gets himself injured beyond immediate repair. Blunt plays the role perfectly, letting just enough vulnerability eventually creep in under her tough-as-nails outer exterior. She is Cruise's action hero match in every regard, and the pair makes a charismatic, compellingly watchable team every time they're on screen together.
I'll take this moment to admit something here that I maybe should have mentioned at the start of this review. Generally, sci-fi movies aren't my cup of tea. In the sci-fi/fantasy genre, I fall more on the fantasy end of the spectrum, and while I've enjoyed sci-fi movies, it's not the genre I naturally gravitate to. But Edge of Tomorrow I would absolutely watch again; I already know there will be something new to appreciate with each repeated viewing. It was that entertaining, a seriously great film in execution. An unexpectedly funny, kick-ass action movie for people who are ready for a smarter, cleverer breed of action movie.
Do yourself a favor. Buy the Blu-ray or DVD. Seriously, don't even waste time renting it, because you'll want it in your collection as soon as you finish watching. Embrace this film and be wildly entertained, because it deserves a place as one of sci-fi's instant classics.
The [Edge of Tomorrow](movie:267902) Blu-Ray & DVD will be released on Tuesday, October 7th.