“Edge of Tomorrow,” Tom Cruise’s well-executed, summer, sci-fi actioner, is essentially about how Don Draper became John Wayne. When we meet American Major Cage (Cruise), he’s done nothing to earn his rank other than game the system after some college ROTC. His job is to sell a war, not fight one. He’s a dishonorable smarmy coward who sees himself as above the meat-grinder his promotion skills have helped to pour countless men and women into.
That’s not to say the world doesn’t need Cage’s skills. We’re in trouble. Hostile, seemingly invincible alien invaders called Mimics have taken much of Europe, and there’s no question world domination is the ultimate goal. After a series of staggering losses, the creation of exoskelton combat jackets helped even the odds, but only temporarily.
Those jackets served another important purpose: helped to create a symbolic hero, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a Special Forces soldier sold as the Angel of Verdun by men like Cage but known affectionately as Full Metal Bitch by the warriors honored to fight by her side. Tomorrow Rita will be dropped on a French beach along with legions of others In what everyone knows is the last chance to save Europe and therefore the world.
Due to events I won’t spoil here, a completely unprepared Cage is also dropped on that French beach — which is a chaotic, bloody, 21st Century D-Day all its own. Cage sees plenty of death before he’s brutally killed by a Mimic’s acidic blood. Death is only the beginning of Cage’s journey. Each time he’s killed, Cage wakes up the previous day with a chance to try again … and again and again.
Much has been made of the use of the “Groundhog Day” concept, but director Doug Liman’s $178 million war film is something closer to a video game come to life. Cruise is the gamer and each time he’s killed a do-over allows him to use the knowledge from previous plays to get a little further.
Like Bill Murray’s iconic existential comedy, “Edge” never gets repetitive and is frequently very funny. “Edge,” however, has nowhere near the intellectual or emotional depth of its cinematic godfather. That lightning isn’t going to be captured twice but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a satisfying summer action film that also serves as a tribute to America’s warriors.
This tribute doesn’t just come from the valor on display around Cage. The arc of this character is the real tribute. At first, Cage represents so much of what we see in our corroded culture: smarter-than-thou, good looking, glib and above such trite ideas as honor and self-sacrifice. The countless do- overs not only improve Cage’s skills as a warrior, he becomes a better man and soldier.
Cruise is, as expected, superb in a role tailor-made for his 30 year-old screen persona. Blunt is every bit his equal. At first glimpse she looks a little small to be playing a Full Metal Bitch, but her presence and performance immediately overcome that.
Gone too soon is Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell, a son of a bitch in the best sense who, when asked if he’s an American, says proudly and defiantly, “Nope. I’m from Kentucky.”
“Edge of Tomorrow” is not only a solid action film, it is worthy of its release date: June 6th.
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