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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 6 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 23
Inventive Tomorrow a breathless spectacle
Arts & Entertainment
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Inventive Tomorrow a breathless spectacle

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

EDGE OF TOMORROW Now playing

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is having a bad day. Never having seen a day of combat, the soldiering neophyte inexplicably finds himself part of the biggest, most important battle the Earth has ever known. The combined forces of the planet are all on the beach in France to hopefully take down an alien invasion force that has raged across Europe with unstoppable fury. This is humanity's last stand, victory hopefully nigh; the only unusual piece being Cage's presence right in the middle of all the chaos.

Things don't just go badly, they're disastrous; the aliens - their combat troops nicknamed 'Mimics' - apparently waiting for them, striking down the human forces as if they were flies running into a particularly bloody flytrap. Worse, Cage for some reason gets to live these events over and over and over again; each time he dies on the battlefield he finds himself reborn the morning before the fight, as if some irascible god-like force would find it amusing to see him run around like Sisyphus charging up a hill he'll never be able to get to the top of.

If Edge of Tomorrow sounds like some harebrained combination of Groundhog Day and Source Code, you wouldn't be alone in making those assumptions. Heck, you can throw in facets of Independence Day, Star Trek: First Contact and Saving Private Ryan into the mix for good measure, director Doug Liman's (The Bourne Identity, Fair Game) adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill not exactly hiding the fact it's cribbing from a variety of well-known sources. It's obvious the filmmaker is going to be playing things close to the vest in order to hide, or at least conceal, the sillier aspects of this admittedly outlandish scenario, and as wild and as weird as much of the film is, that doesn't mean there are a ton of surprises as far as the outcome itself is concerned.

Not that it matters. Liman is at the top of his game, confidently handling all of the pieces of this tale with pinpoint precision. At the same time, the script written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Birthday Girl), with an assist from The Usual Suspects and Jack Reacher scribe Christopher McQuarrie, is top-notch, mixing all the pieces of this adventure with exceptional ease and massive amounts of imagination. From the moment Cage wakes up for the first time, the day before the invasion onward, the movie is a rousing adventure filled with pulse-pounding thrills and surprising dashes of character-driven humor, the film a breathless two-hours of fun worthy of celebration.

The crux of the narrative finds Cage having to meet every day - the same day - with soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), convincing her each morning that they do indeed know one another, and that she has to train him to be a better fighter in order for both of them to survive the next day's carnage. They are aided by scientist Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), the one man who knows what is happening to Cage and why, his insights possibly the key to finding the chink in the Mimic's armor allowing humanity to ultimately prevail.

Liman doesn't just give Cruise and Blunt a magical playground to perform within, he also makes sure to give veteran character actors like Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson signature scenes that are as memorable as anything else taking place inside the circular time-jumping mayhem. More than that, he never loses sight of where things are headed, juggling all the pieces of this sci-fi puzzle with surprising ease. As confounding as things can be, Liman keeps character and motivation central to the drama, unafraid to slow things down to showcase the price of failure or allowing a bit player a moment in the spotlight, the whole only glowing brighter, because these not-so-minor-as-they-might-appear parts are allowed a minute or two to shine.

The climax itself isn't nearly as extraordinary as what comes before it, but in many ways that's expected. There are only so many places for things to end up, after all, and the fact Liman and the screenwriters don't go out of their way to try and do something at least somewhat surprising isn't a total shock. There is a final twist, and while it is a big one, it also doesn't make a ton in the way of sense. Still, it did bring a smile to my face, and I can't say I was at all displeased by the final images Liman and company chose to go out on.

Edge of Tomorrow is fun, anchored by a suitably self-effacing turn by Cruise that initially has him playing charismatically against type in ways I'm not sure we've seen before. As things progress and his confidence builds, his Cage slowly becomes the Top Gun meets Mission: Impossible hero we've come to expect - getting to that point such an exuberant jaunt it almost makes the ticks and mannerisms the actor's known for feel new again. Ultimately, he is the beating heart around which all else continually revolves, Cruise proving once again that, no matter what anyone thinks of him personally, as a movie star, there are still few bigger or more magnetic anywhere on the planet.

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