Any time I associate a film in any way with video games it most likely means that film is straight up rubbish however director Doug Liman gives us some cerebrally paced high octane Sci-Fi action that keeps Edge of Tomorrow from being tagged as just a rip off of Groundhog Day, Elysium or Source Code and the large influence of video games only adds to this thrilling spectacle.
Earth as we know it has been invaded by legions of relentless extra-terrestrials called Mimics. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a media relations officer in the army who has never seen a day of combat in his life. Early on he is, for very ambiguous reasons, abruptly forced by the commander of the United Defence Forces (Brendan Gleeson) into what is that eras D-day invasion against the aliens. This is a major problem for Cage because he is a bit of a chicken. He is killed within minutes of the beach landing. It is here we run into the major twist that sparks the film into life.
Cage now finds himself bizarrely thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over; “Live, Die, Repeat”. The film essentially morphs into the love child of Groundhog Day and the real world sections of the Matrix series – on speed I might add. He relives this period for hundreds of days and he goes crazy and crazy and crazy as he circles through death and re-spawning interspersed with his repeated and unpleasant introduction to the military base. With time Cage develops into a battle hardened soldier with enhanced skill and the obvious foresight.
Cruise is very good as Cage here and he sometimes doesn’t get enough credit for his acting consistency. He embodies his character’s arch from cowardly recruiter to skilled selfless soldier to cold and battle hardened vet. He starts off as slimy weasel trying to blackmail the general but goes on to receive his baptism of fire and in the end, we do learn battle is indeed the great redeemer.
His main ally here is Special Forces operative, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) aka “Full Metal Bitch”. Blunt is in proper bad-ass mode here and the initial aura and shots of her evoke images of a Xena warrior princess type figure. She doesn’t have Linda Hamilton from T2’s biceps or Michelle Rodríguez’s perpetual scowl but she does put on her most imposing and physical performance yet, a far cry from the posh of stuff like The Devil Wears Prada. She is the poster girl for the army and yeah, I would follow her into battle.
As said earlier it has all the makings of a video game with duo largely operating on not only skill but also memory. Gamers will appreciate getting killed in a particular spot and being ready to cheat death the next time around or trying to maneuvering stealthily round a facility with the experience of being caught many times before guiding your every move. It’s all executed and paced intelligently enough to keep us engaged and not frustrated as each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.
The camera work on the action scenes is exceptional in the way it draws us into things. Watching the Mimics wiz around during the fighting like apparitions is almost disorientating and the soldiers bungee-like the drops from the choppers into the war zone in their metallic battle suits is a frightening sight. The editing allows us to jump back and forth in time seamlessly without missing a beat or boring us out. There is some good humour in the script too especially with the scenes involving the ever witty Bill Paxton, he gets all the best lines here.
This is war and we never forget that. The film slows down just a little to endear us to the bonds forged and lost in warfare and despite the speed of plot and endless action we are never oblivious of the stakes. There is no shortage of spectacle and the visual effects are extraordinary, not the least in the climactic sequence amidst an apocalyptic looking Paris. It’s an enjoyable adventure and one of the top action films of the year.