Edge of Tomorrow is the kind of action blockbuster of which I don’t feel we get enough. It’s a good film in the way that many modern day blockbusters aren’t. It has strong characters, one of which goes through a satisfying and clear character arc, a layered and involving story- and it doesn’t rely on easter eggs or teases for future films to make an impression. It simply tells a standalone story that’s smartly written and develops organically. Edge of Tomorrow is essentially the film people wish Hollywood would churn out on a regular basis.
Bill Paxton also has a lot of fun here as Master Sergeant Farell. It’s a great character actor parts that’s a highlight of the film, though I wish there was more of a payoff for the character. Gleeson is underutilized but is good in the two scenes he has with Cruise. I like the J Squad that Cage joins and I wish they were developed a little more, particularly since they’re a huge part of the climax.
One of the trickiest aspects of the film director Doug Liman and screenwriters- notably Christopher MacQuarrie- had to face was how to develop Cage and Vrataski’s relationship when Vrataski is constantly meeting Cage for the first time. It’s through Cage’s growing affection for Vrataski and encountering a situation where he can’t save her no matter what he does – as well as the script giving bits her back-story over the course of the film- that allows the relationship to develop despite the restrictions of the film’s structure.
A film in which events keep repeating themselves runs the risk of seeming too gimmicky or rigid in its structure. But what’s impressive about the film is it has an ongoing story despite being stuck in a specific period of time . The film eventually expands outside of the battlefield and we’re able to see different locations and events. It’s also through the film’s editing- by James Herbert and Laura Jennings- which gives the story a rhythm that makes the structure not feel rigid. The film knows when to show things in full, as early on in the film, and when to use montage and quick editing. We also don’t see every loop but through Cage’s dialogue we clue in to what events he’s been through, notably in a farmhouse scene which defines the emotions and themes of the film.
Doug Liman isn’t name that sparks much passion in the hearts of cinephiles but he directed what’s my favourite Jason Bourne film, 2002’s underrated The Bourne Identity, as well as 2007’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which began the world’s fascination with the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie relationship. While Liman isn't considered an “auteur,” what links the aforementioned films and Edge of Tomorrow is all three have a high concept hook- an assassin who has amnesia, a married couple that doesn’t know each other is a spy, a sci-fi version of Groundhogs Day- but are also very star driven and it’s the stars that make the concepts work. Matt Damon reinvented himself as an action hero for the Bourne series and Pitt and Jolie’s chemistry is what got people in seats for Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Edge of Tomorrow’s concept works because of Cruise and Blunt.
Liman stages several stellar action sequences and make the war between humans and Mimics feel like an authentic conflict. The first time Cage and J Squad are dropped in the war zone is positively thrilling and invokes the sense of dread before battle and the chaos of war. Liman balances heavy sci-fi ideas and bombastic action while allowing the human elements to breath and to develop smoothly over the film. While some of the climatic action felt dragged down the third act for me, it’s hard not to be impressed with this film's set pieces.
If there’s one wonky element of the film it’s the ending. It’s confusing in relation to what was established earlier. There needed to be rules established beforehand that made the ending click in to place. The ending is also a little too neat but that element is forgivable considering how likable the protagonists are. And the final moment is kind of perfect.
Edge of Tomorrow is a wonderful piece of entertainment that despite its high concept feels like a throwback to the type of action blockbuster that’s become rare these days. It’s unfortunate it’s struggling at the box office. This is a film you should see and maybe even see again. Cruise is at his best, Blunt is awesome and Liman has arguably made his best film since The Bourne Identity. Like Bill Cage, Edge of Tomorrow will get more chances at life in the near future on DVD/Blu-ray, Netflix, or what have you, which is a very good thing. For sci-fi fans and for fans of good Hollywood films, Edge of Tomorrow deserves your time.