Edge of Tomorrow is a lot like a video game, and this is the first movie for which that is a compliment. I’m not the first critic to make this observation, but I still feel compelled to mention it, because it is an observation that ought to be repeated. Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, who is stripped of his rank and forced into the front lines of battle in a war against an alien race known as the Mimics. Cage is burned to death by the blood of an unusually large Mimic, and this sanguinary transition grants him the ability to repeat the same day over and over. It may sound like it is just repeating the same time-looping concept that Groundhog Day perfected over 20 years ago, except with aliens and giant mechanical suits, but it actually proves that this is an idea that is far from exhausted.
Edge of Tomorrow is not based on a video game (in fact, it is adapted from the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka), but it feels like it is based on EVERY video game. Or, at least every video game with a consistent storyline in which you can’t save your progress. The environment and plot turns of each repeated day remain the same, so Cage knows, for example, after a few loops that a fellow soldier will be crushed by a plane. So he pushes him out of the way, but that results in Cage being crushed by the plane. Whenever one challenge is overcome, several more present themselves. All of his deaths are certainly frustrating, but they are all followed by a more rewarding round through the game.
No effort is spared with the black comedy of Cage’s demises, as a series of whimsically edited montages present him crushed, exploded, run over by a Humvee, and shot in the head several times over. If you have ever hated Tom Cruise, you will surely enjoy him getting wrung through the ringer, but I implore you to try to actually like him by appreciating his unbridled energy.
I have been a fan of Cruise for a while, so he does not need to win me over, but he hustles as hard as he can to convince everybody else. The supporting cast shines as well, particularly (obviously) Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski, a sergeant who was previously infected with the time-looping Mimic blood. Her heroic exploits have earned her the nickname “Full Metal Bitch.” It is a somewhat annoying moniker, but she no doubt lives up to it. After meeting her in battle in the first loop, we are re-introduced to her (over and over) with an admiring shot of her in a one-arm plank in the training center. The role is a tricky one, as she is expected to take absolutely no gumption from Cage (she’s no GI Jane trying to prove herself, it is just a given how awesome she is regardless of her gender) but also work at a disadvantage, considering that Cage keeps building up experience that she can never match.
Bill Paxton has more fun than any other actor this year as the sergeant in charge of Cage. He kills it with a relish that suggests he has been waiting years for a role in which he can put Tom Cruise in his place. Noah Taylor provides some expositional flavor as Dr. Carter, the only character that Cage and Vrataski can confide in regarding the time looping.
With a male and a female co-lead, it would seem inevitable that Edge of Tomorrow would throw romance into the mix. That did not strike me as the best idea, as the relentlessness of the Mimics made it so that there really could not be enough time to focus on love. Although, considering that Cage can always start over, he more or less had all the time in the world. Unsurprisingly, spending the same day again and again with Rita leads Cage to fall in love with her. So the real issue here with any potential romance is that she only has a day to develop feelings for him. For the most part, EoT recognizes and abides by this limitation. It does get around it a little bit in a way that may seem to be forcing the issue but is actually justified by the chemistry between Cruise and Blunt that is informed by the effect that Vrataski has on Cage during all his loops. A final comparison to Groundhog Day is worth making: Phil Connors’ repetitions allow him to learn how to be the ultimately selfless person that everyone loves, while William Cage is in a lonely endeavor in which he knows that the fruits of his efforts may never be fully recognized by anybody.
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he is working on a Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.