Edge of Tomorrow review: An original summer movie

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in a scene from

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in a scene from "Edge of Tomorrow." (HO)

Rating

4 Stars4/5

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET

Is it possible we owe Tom Cruise a collective apology? In consecutive summers, he has starred in original, intelligent, sci-fi action films – even as the marketplace (ie: us) rewarded familiarity by giving billion-dollar cheques to the same-old sequels and reboots.

Those originals would be last year’s Oblivion, which barely broke even on the strength of foreign box office, and the more action-packed Edge Of Tomorrow (coming to Canada June 6) – a remarkably propulsive film that’s kind of like Groundhog Day with a body count (with battle scenes that evoke Starship Troopers).

The thing is, he had the option to cash in like everybody else. Yet another Mission Impossible film could have been on the schedule this year, elbowing its way in 3D/IMAX between the Spider-Mans, X-Mens and Captain Americas.

So kudos to him. And to director Doug Liman, who takes an experience that could have been akin to an audience on a noisy hamster wheel, and edits it with cleverness and wit. Edge Of Tomorrow is a time-travel film of sorts. And like… I’m going to say ALL of them, it has holes created by its premise (I found the ending a particular head-scratcher, and am happy to exchange thoughts on that in a spoiler-free setting).

Extra points to Cruise for allowing himself to be cast in a less-than-positive light (for a while, anyway). Edge Of Tomorrow takes place in the aftermath of a hazily-sketched alien invasion - the same way Oblivion started, oddly enough. After landing in Europe the invading forces swiftly overtake the continent and then are apparently held there by the combined military forces of the human race – with the U.K. as a bulwark against forward advancement.

So far so World War II. Not sure what an occupied Europe is supposed to represent metaphorically, but it is a terrific springboard for the movie’s focal point – a deja vu D-Day invasion of France, meant to turn the tide against the aliens.

Enter a vain, shallow PR expert Maj. Bill Cage (Cruise) who has propagandized the war effort around a single super-soldier, one Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), known as the “Angel of Verdun” (and “Full Metal Bitch” by the soldiers). For whatever reason – Cage’s annoying cockiness maybe - a blustery general (Brendan Gleeson) delights in assigning him to the front.

So it is that a terrified desk-jockey finds himself in a doomed armada, about to experience something closer to Dieppe than Omaha Beach. It is a battle he’s shocked to find he survives – again and again. For reasons to come, Cage is never killed, but simply wakes up to the start of that terrible day all over again.

What follows is a neat series of tweaks to previous experience, that leads to him meeting Blunt’s character and building on each day’s events to a big finish.

The trick in a movie like this is to keep the repetition fresh. Liman changes up scenarios, and gives us just enough time away from the battle to give us the feeling that we’re headed somewhere, even when we’re not just yet.

Cruise and Blunt, meanwhile, hit their spots perfectly – he becoming more battle-hardened with each singular day, and she delivering great military bad-assery.

Damn the Roman numerals. Edge Of Tomorrow is an original summer movie we’d like to see inspire more of its kind.


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