THE EDGE OF TOMORROW is everything a cracking good action/adventure/sci-fi film should be. Fluidly directed, ferociously acted, and intelligently written, it even takes the time to consider such lofty issues as the ennui of immortality and the nature of reality as it blows up nifty monsters from outer space. Blows them up real good.
Its also a triumph for star Tom Cruise, who dares to essay a character with an actual growth arc. His square-jawed good looks and charisma serving the sniveling media hack at the beginning as effectively as the square-jawed hero he has become at the end. For all the kinetically dazzling special effects and slick, grisly action, its Cruise himself to is the most compelling element of a story that embodies the pleasures and perils to be found in the endless do-overs found in computer games.
Hes Major William Case, an advertising man who has thrown his talents into putting the best face on a losing war humanity is fighting against those nifty monsters I mentioned before. In the final push to defeat them and take back Europe, the commander of the Earths combined military forces (Brendan Gleeson), orders Case to be imbedded with the first wave to storm the French beachhead. When Case shows his true color, that would be yellow, he finds himself stripped of his rank and sent unprepared into that battle with a ragtag squad painfully unaware that they are just so much fodder for an enemy of sinuously roiling tentacles.
Case performs as expected, that it until he dies, which finds him right back at the start of his very bad day, and doomed to relive it over and over, resetting to that start every time he dies. Which is often. As in GROUNDHOG DAY, EDGEs spiritual, if not genre, forbearer, Case slowly comes to understand with each reply that there is a bigger picture around him, a trope handle with a deft sleight-of-hand that prevents it from ever becoming either tedious or precious. Case also comes to understand that the public face of the war, and the public relations departments dream, super-warrior Rita (Emily Blunt) is more than just the Angel of Verdun (shades of World War I), shes the key part of Cases puzzle.
The references to the two world wars cant be a coincidence, particularly with the release date, June 6, being the anniversary of D-Day, an invasion of a French beach not unlike the one depicted with such stark intensity in the film (shades of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN). Considering that one of the themes at work here is the nature of heroism, its hardly a hollow tribute, or a cheap one. Nor is it a stale one. The story delights in the ironies and peculiarities of a man who knows exactly what will happen next, creating an impeccable internal logic for what is happening, and also providing an equally solid, and suspenseful, device for Case, and/or those he has come to care about, to die once and for all. Just for fun, there is Noah Taylor as the particle physicist reduced to maintenance engineer for his radical theories about the space invaders that are, of course, entirely correct.
One other nice thing about EDGE OF TOMORROW is that it never succumbs to the temptation, and perhaps studio pressure, to throw in a gratuitous romance. No doubt Case falls for Rita. Who wouldnt come to worship the person who teaches him how face battle, even if shes also the one putting a bullet in his head when the time comes to reset? But for all the puppy-dog looks from Cruise, Blunt is always true to Ritas fierce focus on getting the job done. The signature line of their relationship isnt a drippy bit of romance, its her urgent order for him to find her when he wakes up. Not bad advice for any relationship.