As it is often funny, suspenseful and surprisingly emotionally acute, Edge of Tomorrow could wind up being 2014’s best summer blockbuster.
Give ample credit to writers Christopher McQuarrie, and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, who develop Major William Page (Tom Cruise) and Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) with complexity and authenticity; both are flawed but compelling people.
And both appropriately change as the film progresses, a fact that is doubly impressive in Vrataski’s case. After all, unlike Page, she cannot learn life lessons from repeating this day.
The writers deserve accolades for explaining their science fiction without ever falling into over-indulgent exposition.
And for making a film with multiple recycled scenes fresh and exciting. Edge of Tomorrow never once succumbs to repetitiveness.
Tom Cruise earns just as much praise, if only because he simultaneously shoulders much of Edge of Tomorrow’s humor and most of its drama, a balancing act at which he proves adept.
Director Doug Liman’s work is superb. By refusing to provide contextual clues for the numbers of times Page has lived this day, Liman makes the audience comfortable with the screenplay’s omitted scenes. When Rita asks Page, ‘When? In what circumstances did I tell you that?’ we wonder the same. Is Cage lying? Is it one of the events we haven’t seen? Our confusion does not distract us, but rather hooks us.
Liman’s use of special effects is equally strong. The mimics are frightening; the explosions disturbing; the rare slow motion deliberative; and so forth.
Moreover, the director’s opening battle sequence is one of the better such scenes I have seen, comparable to those in Saving Private Ryan (1998), Band of Brothers (2001) or All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
Edge of Tomorrow makes a handful of missteps, however. First, secondary characters, including every member of J-Squad and Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor, terrific), receive too little treatment.
General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) suffers even more from under-characterization. There are myriad possible explanations for his actions, but we are left to guess at which to accept, because the writers and director do not provide enough evidence for any of them.
Bordering on cliche: the opening sequence, which shows clips of media personalities summarizing the picture’s setting.
And the mimics themselves, which are more than a little derivative (read: Ender’s Game).
The final action sequence is rushed and a touch anti-climatic. It is the first time McQuarrie and the Butterworths fail to capture appropriate emotion, and, given the moment’s importance, their failure is disappointing.
Yet, none of these flaws come to close to ruining Edge of Tomorrow. The film doesn’t quite reach greatness, but it still earns a strong recommendation.