Inert Alien Invasion
When we first encounter Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, he, as Major William Cage, is at his smarmy best, shilling to TV news shows on behalf of a global military alliance created to combat an alien invasion. No one quite does cocky the way that Cruise does, which is one reason he’s still able to pull off being an action hero at age 52.
A whole movie of that is a bit much, though, so Cage is fortunately unwittingly thrown to the front lines of the war, something he, as a PR expert, is utterly incapable of handling. Sure enough, he gets killed minutes into a planned invasion, but not before one alien he manages to kill sprays him with its blood.
That blood turns out to magical, as it gives him the ability to live the same day over and over again, something he eventually learns to utilize to his advantage.
The issue is that the film, by virtue of its constant repetition, makes it difficult to build up any kind of emotional investment in the outcome.
He joins forces with war hero Rita Vrtaski (Emily Blunt), who experienced the same thing previously before losing the ability, and the two of them do their damnedest to manipulate both time and the war.
The obvious comparison for this film is Groundhog Day, and just as in that movie, it’s the trial and error period in which Cage tries to figure things out that’s the most entertaining.
However, instead of simply living out the day and waking up again, Cage must be killed to restart. The inventive ways in which they off him, especially those involving Vrtaski, make the first third of the film as much a comedy as an action movie.
It’s when the film settles down into the business of solving the central problem, i.e. killing the alien invaders, that it loses a bit of steam. This is through no fault of the interplay between Cruise and Blunt, who make a surprisingly solid team.
The issue is that the film, by virtue of its constant repetition, makes it difficult to build up any kind of emotional investment in the outcome. The story implies that Cage regenerates thousands, if not millions, of times, making it a case of when, not if, he will succeed.
In other words, the only obstacle is time itself, not the actual aliens that they’re fighting. For all the impact they make on the film, the aliens might as well be invisible. While the film still has its fair share of great action sequences, it’s really only the film’s climax in which the aliens play any significant part at all.
The film deserves credit for mostly staying away from romantically pairing Cruise and Blunt, which was a nice break from conventional action movie plots. Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton do good work in supporting roles, but hardly anyone else makes an impression.
Edge of Tomorrow proves that Cruise still hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to action movies, but the inert opponent he’s up against keep the film from being an all-out winner.