The Edge of Tomorrow is a nearly perfect Sci Fi adventure and is the most fun I have had with an original Sci Fi film since Rain Johnson’s 2012 hit Looper. Unlike Looper, which came solely from the mind of its director, Edge of Tomorrow is based off of a Japanese light novel called All You Need is Kill. 3 Arts Entertainment optioned the novel in late 2009. In a strange move, instead of making a pitch to a major studio to purchase the film, the company decided to develop a script to show the studios. Dante Harper wrote the script, and Warner Brothers purchased it 2010. Director Doug Liman was tasked with the film and signed on Cruse and the cast when production began in 2011.
The Film stars Tom Cruse as William Cage, a bit of a despicable army publicist selling a D-day style beach invasion of Europe five years after an initial alien invasion. This invasion left most of the European continent destroyed and under enemy control. Cage is asked to join the front lines for a propaganda news report and refuses by not so subtly attempting to blackmail a commanding officer. He finds himself labeled a deserter and sent to the front lines, where he dies. He dies only to find himself awake again at the beginning of that same day. After reliving the same day a few times he joins up with Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, the “Angel of Verdun” (or “Full Metal Bitch” behind her back) the only person who believes Cage has this ability to reset the day. She tries to turn Cage from a coward into a soldier capable of defeating the enemy and winning the war.
Cage is what grounds this film, we follow him as he goes through the various stages of understanding his new ability. We witness his disbelief multiple times as he wakes up from death to hear Master Sergeant Farell’s (Bill Paxton) riveting and over-the-top speech about how combat is the great redeemer (after Agents of SHIELD I really can’t get enough Bill Paxton). Cage’s attempts to change events before they happen lead him to meeting and saving Rita. Then we see him being instructed by Rita, from the training simulations to live combat. It is satisfying in a way that a great video game is. With each death and each reset we get to see Cage adapt and overcome the obstacle or enemy he lost to in just the scene before. We also get to see the “deserter” we meet at the beginning of the film evolve into a brave and honorable soldier.
In the same way that Cage grounds this film, Rita grounds Cage and in turn their relationship leads the audience through the movie. Rita is Cage’s constant since the moment he sees her die on the beach in his first day. She leads by example and through tough love, and by being ruthlessly unconcerned for Cage’s well being. What’s great about Cage and Rita’s relationship is the film does not over focus on it. The film could have so easily become about saving Rita from some inevitable impending death. While that idea is addressed, it is very well handled so as not make Rita into a damsel-in-distress or diminish her role as the tough and clearly superior soldier.
The script is great, and it very easily keeps a good pace that, despite the time resets, never gets repetitive. The Edge of Tomorrow does not re-invent the wheel with this story, but it does it very well. It also has a great sense of morbid humor. Many of the resets are played for laughs, but they are able to keep it from diminishing the idea that Cage has to see his friends and the constants in his life leave him every time.
The directing is also strong. Liman keeps the action well visible yet far out. Through the hands of the director it’s very easy to see the scope of this war. There is none of the too commonly used “shaky cam” or “down on the ground” techniques that war movies are crippled by these days. The CG is very well done, and despite the limited settings and locations the film feels varied and diverse.
The film has only two real shortcomings, its enemy and its ending. The enemy of the film are the Mimics, an alien race that has come to earth for no acknowledged reason. While I don’t need a motivation for a mindless enemy, I would have liked to see the Mimics showoff how the film says they got their name. This is an enemy that, like Cage, can re-live the day over and over again. Besides a few good tricks, the enemy, to me, does not seem to use that skill to their advantage.
Then there is the ending… (spoilers below)
In the end of the film Cage wakes up on a table looking up to dripping blood bags from a blood transfusion. We established early on in the film that this was bad news since it is how Rita lost her ability to reset the day. When this point of the film begins, a new feeling of urgency takes over the film. From cages frantic screams that he will die if Rita shoots him, to a beautiful moment between Cage and Rita when they realize that they are going to die in their final assault on the Mimic brain.
It’s powerful watching J-Squad (other soldiers we meet in the film) sacrifice their lives for a man they just met. I even believe Rita’s good bye kiss to Cage, a person she has just met, but clearly knows her better than she could even imagine at that moment.
Watching from Rita’s perspective as she is torn to shreds by the Alpha Mimic is heart breaking. Cage sinking into the water as the grenades fall below him to the brain is poetic and completes his journey in a way.
Then, what feels like a tacked on ending begins. Blue tentacle like plant things under the mimic brain grab on to cage and mix with his blood, we guess. This sends Cage back in time one more time. However, they do not send him back to the starting point of his previous reset cycle, no, they arbitrarily send him back to the beginning point of the film. This happens so Cage can continue to have his rank, but still be the new man he has become. He can get the girl, save the day, and even say yes to being the propaganda hero. All so they can have a cutesy ending between him and Rita meeting for the first time like so many times before.
(end of spoilers and rant)
It’s just disappointing that the film, which had set it’s self up for such a great somber and emotional ending, felt the need to abandon all the previous established rules of the reset he had spent the entire film reinforcing just to have a stereotypical happy ending.
While The Edge of Tomorrow is not a perfect film, it’s still a great one and well worth seeing. Out of a summer full of some really great blockbusters, Edge of Tomorrow stands out as being unique.