It is difficult, and probably misguided, to vote against the cinematic prowess of Tom Cruise. Despite the fact that a good majority of his headline making in recent years has been for his Scientology beliefs or his occasionally quirky behavior, the simple fact is that Cruise continues time and again to deliver the goods when it really counts.
With Edge of Tomorrow, he does it again.
A surefire sci-fi blockbuster of the popcorn variety based upon a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow centers around Major Bill Cage (Cruise), a green military officer more adept at selling war than actually fighting in it. When he inexplicably finds himself forced into battle on the frontlines of a key battle against an otherworldly enemy, he's quickly killed yet finds himself caught within a time loop that leaves him reliving that final day over and over again. Alongside the Angel of Verdun (Emily Blunt), a particularly effective fighting machine, each time he dies leads him closer to discovering the truth about the enemy and finding a way to defeat them.
If there's a beef that I've had with Tom Cruise as of late, it's that too many of his films have seemed more like desperate attempts to stay relevant than actual acting performances. I've missed the Tom Cruise of old, an actor who stretched himself and grew while occasionally failing but never failing to completely fascinate.
While Edge of Tomorrow may not require a master thespian, Cruise's Cage is a surprisingly complex role filled with opportunities to once again flex his acting muscle. This is especially true in the film's first half when Cage is a more humble and vulnerable man repeatedly coming face-to-face with his own mortality and his own limitations. It is in these scenes, which sadly eventually give way to the familiar Cruise strut and smile, that I found myself most enchanted by both the film and Cruise's genuinely appealing performance.
It's going to be interesting to see what America does with this film, a rumored $178 million mega-budget extravaganza opening alongside the $12 million The Fault in Our Stars, a film with big buzz and a huge fan base of 10 million plus who've snagged a copy of Hoosier author John Green's novel of the same name.
This film is directed by Doug Liman, a creative action director who also gave us Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity. It shouldn't be surprising that much like those films, Edge of Tomorrow creatively amps up the action while infusing it all with wit, intelligence, and formula that doesn't always seem like formula.
If the entire plot around Edge of Tomorrow sounds like a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, that's not entirely inappropriate. While the film does have that whole "reliving each day" theme going for it, much like Groundhog Day there's actually a whole lot more going on than one might think and much like Cage you'll likely find yourself noticing a little bit more with each and every daily journey.
In addition to Cruise's performance that is filled with humor, heart, and bravado, Emily Blunt satisfies in what is most certainly a stretch for the young actress but one done with quite impressive results. Blunt gives an intelligent and gutsy performance that, quite frankly, I wasn't convinced she had in her. Bill Paxton, who seems to be experiencing a career resurgence as of late, is impressive as Master Sgt. Farrell, a Kentucky-bred good ole' boy tasked with preparing his men in J Squad, including Cage, with an impossible task.
Dion Beebe's lensing is dizzying yet emotionally satisfying though, and I know I sound like a broken record, any notion of catching this film in 3-D ought to be tossed out the window. It's completely unnecessary. James Herbert's editing is crisp and well timed, while Christophe Beck's original score weaves its way through the film's darkly humorous terrain.
Edge of Tomorrow is proof, once again, that Cruise can certainly be knocked down but can never be counted as completely out even when it seems that all of America has turned against him.
There's always tomorrow. Here it is.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic