Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: Liman’s Simple Sci-Fi is Lean Entertainment
Considerable praise is in order for director Doug Liman and a trio of screenwriters headlined by Christopher McQuarrie, one of Tom Cruise’s favored collaborators. At several instances, Edge of Tomorrow threatens to become a repetitive bore, yet at each plausible juncture, its formula veers inextricably into new facets of intrigue, at least enough to keep wandering attention spans at bay. The inevitability of its standardized finale aside, there is a definitive freshness to not only this familiar material, but its staunchly invariable star, Tom Cruise.
The media representative of the United Defense Force, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is charged with selling mankind’s current war against an alien race known as Mimics. But hardnosed General Brigham (Brenden Gleeson), wants to place Cage right on the frontlines of battle by positioning him with the media on a beach destined for a historic battle against the creature. At first, Cage politely balks at the prospect. “I’m not a fighter, that’s why I’m doing this,” he explains. But an attempt to wriggle out of the command via blackmail lands Cage a demotion to Private, and he’s unceremoniously dropped into the battle zone. Amidst the carnage, something happens in combat with the aliens that allow Cage to reset the day, something that happens every time he dies in battle as he re-experiences the scenario. When he runs into the media-championed star soldier, Rita (Emily Blunt) on the battlefield, she helps him to understand how and why he has this current power, and what can be done to harness it.
As a testament to the lack of original material in mainstream American cinema, something like Edge of Tomorrow, which is basically a mussed up and insistently simple amalgamation of B sci-fi concepts (yeah, don’t forget the central conceit is from Groundhog’s Day), certainly does stand out as the type of sometimes intelligent popcorn cinema that’s also visually, commercially enjoyable.
There’s a lot of mileage gained from a strong comedic flourish, mostly resting on the shoulders of Cruise in an expert casting move, starring as a bitchy, prissy coward. Thankfully, he’s not bogged down with a redemptive subplot, though some wan attempts to strike a romantic aside with Blunt’s ‘Full Metal Bitch’ Rita feel uncomfortable. For her part, Blunt is lean, mean and convincing, yet something feels lacking in her screen presence, which might be due to Cruise sapping up all the narrative juice.
Certain unexplained moments might nag insistent purists. Why do we return to that one particular moment in time? And why doesn’t it also reset Cruise’s untouched DNA when the reset happens? Additionally, the mimics tend to look like video game inspired nightmares, thus losing the kind of terror they logically should inspire if they were indeed taking over the planet. Plus, at the rate they diminish the human populous, how are humans even holding them off at all, anyway?
Most of the supporting cast members lurk in peripheral disarray, including nearly all of Cruise’s military cohorts. Brendan Gleeson gets to chew some scenery, while Bill Paxton stands out as a Master Sergeant in charge of a character not terribly unlike the one he himself played in Aliens (1986). Of course, speaking of that classic title, the outfits enabling the humans to fight against the mimics looks to be directly borrowed from a significant moment in that film as well, though mobile functions seem a bit fantastically unexplained here.
Despite these lacks, which also includes a rather prosaic visual palette from Dion Beebe (his work on 2002’s Equilibrium, while perhaps a Matrix/Fahrenheit 451 rip-off, is much more memorable), Edge of Tomorrow is the type of big budget summertime fun that’s generally lacking at the multiplex. If a sequel gets green lit, rest assured, the constraints of its simplistic treatment are bound to become handsomely complicated.