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It’s rare for studios to do a major tent pole film that isn’t set up to be a franchise starter, so it’s always a pleasant surprise when a one off film comes out, especially during the summer. Thankfully, even without franchise recognition, Edge of Tomorrow ends up being one of the this summer’s better offerings. The film sets out to be a fun sci-fi adventure, but it’s one that audiences may not quite be expecting. It’s a film that feels a like it’s part part video game, while being all parts a sci-fi action tale, but one that’s made for a smarter audience, because it never stops to pander to them.
Based on the Japanese novel, All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as Major William Cage, a man living in a bleak looking near future, where an alien species, known as Mimics, threatens to destroy humanity, and claiming Earth as their own. But for Cage, the future may never happen, as he finds himself stuck in a strange anomaly: Every time he dies, he wakes up on the same day, forced to relive the day over again. As Cage begins to try and understand what’s happening to him, he comes in contact with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the leader of the human resistance, and a woman who just might know what’s happening to him. The two band together, trying to use Cage’s knowledge and newly found powers as an upper hand against the enemy. But what if it’s not enough, and the Earth is doomed to fall, no matter how many times they try and change the future?
The best thing about Edge of Tomorrow is the fact that the way it plays with its premise. The film could easily become out of hand or repetitive really quickly, but instead it feels natural. They play it with a bit of comedy in the beginning, making it easier to accept what’s happening, before shifting it into a more serious direction. In fact, the idea behind this whole film actually becomes very interesting, when they start to play on the idea of all the pain that Cage must feel living the same day over and over again, and watching the people around him die over and over again. Cruise is so good in the role, and he balances it in a way only he can. He brings his usual charm and charisma to the role, and the way he plays the comedy and seriousness in the overall bizarre situation he finds himself in is great. Cruise has always been a great action star, and that is no different here. You can tell he fully threw himself into the role, and he makes wearing the cumbersome suit seem effortless.
But it’s really not just Cruise who shines, but Emily Blunt damn near steals the film as Rita Vrataski. Blunt has been gaining a lot of traction and notoriety over the last few years, but this may be the film to really put her on the map. She completely holds her own against Cruise, and even shows him up at times. She’s tough as nails, and she handles the action very well. There’s never a moment where Blunt feels out of place in the film, and you completely believe her character has earned her famous nickname. This may actually be one of the best female protagonists to grace the screens since Ripley and Sarah Conner, and Blunt could more than care that mantle for sometime. Bill Paxton also steals all his scenes as Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome, a by the books military officer who is nothing but a pain in Cage’s side. Paxton is just a joy to watch, as he chews up the scenery in his scenes with glee, and it’s hard not to love him in the role.
Director Doug Liman has proven himself a more than capable action director, with things like The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith on his resume, but Edge of Tomorrow is certainly his most grown up and most well staged action film of his career. The film has some incredibly impressive action sequences on the battlefield, as well as outside of it, as the story progresses, and he clearly shoots the scenes with care. There’s no shaky cam work here, and everything is nicely choreographed, making it easy to tell what’s going on, and making it more enjoyable. The most impressive action sequences really come from a montage on the battlefield between Cage and Rita, as they fight side by side against the Mimics. They look great fighting together, and the scenes are so much fun.
It’s just too bad the film’s second act bogs down the pace, as the film’s story begins to try and move forward. A full scene of exposition that explains the Mimics, and the way that Cage ended up with his new powers, begins to drag the film down. It doesn’t hurt the film too much, but it’s certainly noticeable. Then there’s also a matter of the film’s ending, which while good, does feel a bit forced. It seems too neat and tied up, as great and emotional as it can be seen as. One can’t help but wonder if a different ending may have yielded a better third act, and a stronger finish, but audiences will be more than happy with the way the film closes.
Edge of Tomorrow is one of the better sci-fi offerings of the last few years. While the film suffers from some pacing issues in the middle, and a bit of a deus ex machina with its ending, it doesn’t hurt the overall enjoyability of the film. Cruise is in top form, which will come as no shock to his fans, but it’s really Blunt and Paxton who steal the film in their respective roles. Featuring a great sense of humor, some fantastic action scenes, and a newer premise that hasn’t been visited too many times before, the film soars to great heights, overcoming its few problems. This isn’t the best summer film of 2014, but it’s definitely one of its strongest offerings.