“Edge of Tomorrow” offers mindless fun of the high order. Interestingly, it does this without short-changing the audience on the intelligence front. It doesn’t just work as pure escapism, it is also a first-class ticket to an enjoyable military science-fiction property.
As a slick, time-bending alien invasion movie, it handles its high-concept premise with enough fluidity. It is worth noting, however, that it is intentionally tiring, as its plot requires. Many scenes literally repeat without being cinematically repetitive.
The story unfolds in a near future when an alien race threatens mankind of extinction. As an American officer who never saw a day of combat finds himself inexplicably thrown to the frontline of a suicide mission against the extraterrestrials, Major William Cage realizes he is bound into a time loop that forces him to live out the same brutality over and over again. For his every death, he wakes up on the same day — seemingly a reset of time. With each battle, he fights and dies and lives again. In facing his repetitive days with increasing skill, his questions about his situation and condition find some answers upon his encounter with Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski. She leads him to a clearer mission on how to win the war, although doing it isn’t as easy as it seems.
This big-budget flick has glancing references to some classic sci-fi actioners, as well as explicit references to the Normandy landings of World War II. In its own unique way, it succeeds in creating a hybrid war story pegged like a “Groundhog D-Day” and “Full Metal Alien” with shades of “Starship Troopers-meets-Looper,” “Source Code-meets-Mimic,” and “Independence Day-meets-Saving Private Ryan.” Clearly, its depiction of warfare deftly handles what could have been an overly complicated story.
The film delivers an unexpectedly poignant tale, yet its cleverly fancy plot still ensures fun in the proceedings. Often times, it gratifies with a frenetic burst of energy that undoubtedly enthralls on screen. Its memorable pop elements bring that unforgettable adrenaline rush. Its series of unrelenting assaults remain gripping from start to end.
This edgy, time-trippy piece is smart enough that the viewer doesn’t have to feel annoyed or embarrassed sitting through it. In between the story’s varieties of false starts, dead ends, and hard lessons, the smarter-than-expected script manages to break the chain of formulaic repetition. Scenes whirl with energy during moments of comedy, drama, suspense, and action. Intriguingly exhilarating for the most part, the sharp storytelling makes the supposedly ineffectual carnage feel effectively entertaining.
With a gripping structure utilizing narrative devices in innovative ways, helmer Doug Liman, best known for his “Bourne” movies, impressively makes the concept feel fresh with smart set-ups and ambitious themes. His brisk direction makes the action sequences genuinely thrilling. As a fairly eye-popping, futuristic picture full of loud sounds and dynamic visuals, he deftly orchestrates pulse-pounding action and pulpy humor with clarity, precision, and wit.
The time-loop gimmick gets introduced with brisk efficiency, often keeping the narrative wrinkles at bay. The ingenious story sustains through the repetitions with sufficient variations to hook the audience toward the many twists and turns. The first two-thirds of the film features the best sequences, while the final third has some minor annoyances to note, but not to a detrimental degree.
The actors bring ample energy to their roles. Tom Cruise’s protean charm on screen always finds suspense-filled ways to make moments fun and memorable. Emily Blunt doesn’t serve as a mere leading lady for the sake of having one. Her strong heroine character promotes that much-needed chemistry with Cruise, which is crucial in pushing the story forward.