When the trailer for “Edge of Tomorrow” hit awhile back, everyone seemed to have the same reaction. “So what, it’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ meets ‘Transformers?’” In a nutshell, yeah, that’s exactly what the film is. The good news is that “Edge of Tomorrow” is also one of the summer’s more surprising blockbusters. As an action picture, it’s infinitely smarter and more entertaining than any of the “Transformers” movies. While not as funny or heartfelt as “Groundhog Day,” it does have a very welcome sense of humor and genuine affection for its characters. It’s kind of a shame that this $178 million blockbuster is likely destined to get lost in the shuffle of summer movies as it’s really worth checking out.
It’s sometime in the future where earth has been invaded by aliens known as Mimics, which look like the machines from “The Matrix” if they mated with something out of “Mass Effect.” Tom Cruise is Major William Cage, who uses his charming on-screen charisma to influence people to join the war against the Mimics. The irony is that Cage himself has absolutely no experience fighting in combat. That all changes when Brendan Gleeson’s Gen. Brigham orders him to take part in an assault on the Mimics. Against his will, Cage is hurled into combat under the command of the slimy Master Sgt. Farrell, played by the even slimier Bill Paxton.
The assault goes even worse than expect as it turns out that the Mimics knew the humans were coming and have the upper hand. Cage is killed just as he becomes covered in the blood of a Mimic. The next thing Cage knows, he’s back at the army base a day earlier. It appears that Cage has gained the power to reset the day every time he dies. The only one who believes him is Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, a poster solider who has miraculously survived one impossible battle after another. Vrataski believes that the humans now have a fighting chance at winning the war, even if it means that Cage has to die day after day until they get it right.
Although Cruise is still unarguably one of the biggest stars around, his name isn’t the same box office draw it was 10 years ago. That could have to do with his insane off-screen personality or the fact that he keeps playing the same exact role in every movie he does. Cruise doesn’t exactly stretch his acting muscles in “Edge of Tomorrow” either. Nonetheless, that Cruise persona is perfectly suited here and he pulls off one of his best action-oriented performances in awhile. We completely believe Cruise as a cowardly fraud forced to become a war hero. Just as good is Blunt, who’s clearly having a ball as the strong, funny heroine charged with the hopeless task of making a man out of Cage.
Director Doug Liman of “The Bourne Identity” mixes together elements of everything from “Saving Private Ryan” to “Aliens,” producing some exhilarating action set pieces that fortunately keep the shaky cam to a minimum. What really makes the film work, though, is the screenplay by Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, which they adapted from a Japanese novel. In the hands of lesser writers, the whole “Groundhog Day” gimmick could get old really fast. The screen writing team pace the story almost perfectly, however, making for a number of clever, humorous moments while also avoiding falling into any distracting plot holes.
Aside from all the before-mentioned films, the movie that “Edge of Tomorrow” probably resembles the most is “Source Code,” in which Jake Gyllenhaal had to keep going back in time to identify a train bomber. That film was also slick and intelligent, but never found much of an audience. Here’s hoping that “Edge of Tomorrow” does better. It certainly deserves to.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.