Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
"Edge of Tomorrow" does not get off to the most promising start. Utilizing the tired cliche of news reports, we learn that Earth has been attacked by aliens known as Mimics and that humans are in the midst of waging a war against the invaders, which look like a combination of gigantic electrified eels and spiders. Tom Cruise first appears during one of these news segments as some sort of propaganda type who is attempting to rally his fellow man to enlist and fight these creatures.

Cage (Cruise), who has never actually seen combat, is called into a meeting with a top ranking general (Brendan Gleeson) and makes a failed attempt at a bribe, of sorts, to keep him away from the front line, which then results in his being thrown in with the grunts. He is forced to join a D-Day type of attack against the Mimics and is quickly killed.

But in pure "Groundhog Day" fashion, Cage awakens to find that he is reliving the same day over and over again - and this is where "Edge of Tomorrow" begins to get fun. It's difficult to describe the film without revealing why Cage is repeating the same day, but suffice it to say it's well-enough explained and that the repetitive scenario is frequently humorous and exciting.

Cage, of course, is the only person who can remember details from day-to-relived-day, which gives him a one-up on the other characters, which include a surly master sergeant (Bill Paxton) and a tough war hero named Rita (Emily Blunt), with whom Cage will eventually collaborate to fight the Mimics.

"Edge of Tomorrow" is refreshing not only because of the clever way director Doug Liman ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith") utilizes the time travel component as well as the film's impressive special effects, but it's also a plus that the picture is a reminder of why Cruise was, for so long, one of Hollywood's top leading men.

During the past few years, the actor has been stuck in mostly forgettable roles that played it too safe - "Rock of Ages," "Oblivion" and "Knight and Day," for example. Prior to that, Cruise was more of a risk taker than most of the other actors of his generation, especially considering how big of a star he was. Read this resume and tell me you don't agree: "Born on the Fourth of July," "Eyes Wide Shut," "Magnolia," "Minority Report" and "Vanilla Sky."

"Edge of Tomorrow" may be just another routine action movie - but with a clever gimmick driving its story - in comparison with the more challenging films in which Cruise was previously seen, but it's the first time in a while that the actor has taken on a role that feels a little less safe. Sure, there are the scenes you'd expect of Cruise running from explosions, but his character is a little more flawed and less heroic than you'd expect from a leading man in an action movie.

The picture certainly does not belong on a list of Cruise's best movies, but his work here gives the impression that, should this film do well, he may be a little less risk averse in future endeavors. "Edge of Tomorrow" is a little more clever than your average summer blockbuster and nice return to form, of sorts, for an actor who, at the top of his game, rarely shied away from challenging work.

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