Have you seen “Edge of Tomorrow” before? Yes, maybe, in some ways. But Doug Liman’s original sci-fi thriller comes off as a hit, with a lot of originality, and Tom Cruise is more appealing than he has been in a long time.
The movie, which opens Friday, has a fresh feel to it also thanks to an excellent screenplay (by Jez and John Henry Butterworth, polished up by Christopher McQuarrie) and solid supporting performances from Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, and the suddenly ubiquitous Ben Mendelsohn.
For once, Cruise isn’t a martyr with a know-it-all grin. His character, Bill Cage, wants nothing to do with combating aliens from other worlds who are destroying Europe. He’s happy just to film the whole thing as an army major with a public relations mandate. He doesn’t know how to fire any gadgets or blow things up. He’s a coward.
That’s a nice twist, so that when Cage is sent to the front lines, and knocked down to Private, he has to learn everything new. Liman uses Cruise to great advantage. There’s no preening. He’s not an insta-hero. Or any hero, really. He just “is.” And Liman doesn’t force any romance on Cruise. He and Blunt kiss once, but there’s nothing more than camaraderie.
The story is your basic War of the Worlds, only this time it involves a “Groundhog Day” like concept. Cruise has to keep re-starting the same day, getting a little further each time, until he can get to the ultimate goal of eliminating the aliens’ source of power. The plot plays like a video game, where in each journey you reach a new level.
Luckily, Liman keeps it human throughout. Even though the movie is expensive, with lots of CGI and 3D effects, “Edge” feels grounded. The good news is: no sequel. When it’s done, it’s done. Everyone comes out a winner, starting with the audience.
So it’s all good. But do we really need to see Tom Cruise do this thing again and again? After this. he’s got to find some actual films. He almost, dare I say it, acts in this movie. It would be nice to see more of that.