Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org
By Tyler Hersko
Tom Cruise tries to blackmail a general. Tom Cruise is unceremoniously tased and stripped of his rank. Military people are mean to Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise wanders around a battleground and watches military people get skewered by aliens. Tom Cruise dies.
It’s not an inspiring start.
Science fiction film “Edge of Tomorrow,” stars Cruise as Major William Cage, a cowardly and inept man that is as unlikable as he is without depth. Forced into a war against marauding aliens, despite his lack of combat experience, Cage does what any untrained man would do in a war against marauding aliens: die horribly. But that would make for a dull film, so instead Cage wakes on the morning of the day he supposedly died.
Forced to relive the same point in time every time he dies, Cage must figure out what has happened to him and find a way to stop the war. Neither time loops nor the “last hope for humanity” concept tend to lend themselves to unique storytelling in modern science fiction. It’s all the more surprising, then, that “Edge of Tomorrow” manages to circumvent its shaky opening and its well-worn ideas to result in one of the most innovative and exciting films of the year thus far.
Cage soon allies with war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who trains him in the art of battle. The two devise plans to defeat the aliens, which results in a multitude of explosive and unexpectedly witty scenarios. This isn’t a film of macho alpha males. Violence terrifies the woefully unprepared Cage, and his gradual transition from a bland weakling into a grizzled combat veteran is both impressively humanizing and, thanks to his pseudo-immortality, genuinely funny.
Watching Cage accidentally get splattered by a truck or get shot in the head by Frataski after breaking his leg while training is black comedy at its finest. Laughs of all sorts are aplenty, but the action scenes carry just as much weight.
Following in the footsteps of “District 9’s” gritty realism, “Edge of Tomorrow’s” gunfights are equal parts bombastic and sensible; it never falls prey to the “destruction porn” stereotypes all too prevalent in other recent summer blockbusters.
Thanks to the intriguing plot and apt character development, you’ll begin to actually care about how the story concludes, a truly remarkable feat for a seemingly typical science fiction action film. “Edge of Tomorrow’s” war-plagued Earth is an engrossing place, and one worth looking at. The aliens are suitably ferocious, and quite unlike the usual hostile extraterrestrials in science fiction. Although their motives are unfortunately only referred to in a series of flimsy theories, it doesn’t have a noticeably detrimental effect on the greater plot.
While the film does a commendable job of justifying its far-fetched concepts, as with all stories concerning the space-time continuum — never mind aliens and robotic exoskeletons — a slight sense of disbelief is required. That the film is equally enjoyable as a tense action film as it is a solid science fiction story speaks volumes. In a season awash with heavy-handed sequels and otherwise uninspired action flicks, “Edge of Tomorrow” stands out as one of this summer’s most entertainingly original films. This is science fiction action done right.
Tyler Hersko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.