To declare an interest, brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, co-writers of new sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow, are from my hometown of St Albans and were taught by my dad at secondary school. Not only that, but the movie’s star Tom Cruise went for a curry in a St Albans restaurant during shooting. That’s really the most interesting stuff about this film, and it’s only interesting to a niche segment of the population who are from St Albans and related to my dad.
If we have to talk about the actual movie, it’s set in the midst of a war between humanity and aliens. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a cowardly PR mouthpiece for the US military, who’s suddenly sent to the front lines by the formidable General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). The twist, if it can be called that when it’s so very familiar, is that every time Cage dies in battle, he wakes up at the start of the same day and round and round it goes. Super-soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) sees his potential as a weapon against the extraterrestrial force, and together they fight to save mankind from the kind of aliens that Tom Cruise worships.
It’s ironic that a film about reliving the same day again and again is plagued by such unoriginality. Groundhog Day, Source Code, Aliens, Saving Private Ryan, milk, eggs, sugar… sorry I forgot what I was doing there. The point is, we’ve seen all these ideas before repeatedly, its high-concept stolen from films of much higher quality. The aliens are even called “Mimics”. It carries the problem of trying to make the same looped events interesting to watch, and where Groundhog Day and Source Code manage it, Edge of Tomorrow does not. There’s no tension to be found in the story of a soldier who keeps coming back to life, only to face the same incidents hundreds of times over. The only person for whom it could be any more boring is Cage himself, though the film never conveys the mental strain it would take to relive the same few hours for what is in fact days, weeks, months…
But obviously it’s not meant to be taken seriously, and it works surprisingly well as a bonkers bit of fun. Bonkers being the operative word. This film is almost Tom Cruise levels of crazy. The action is literally non-stop, to the point that even Michael Bay would start to question the unrelenting number of explosions. Alongside the Butterworths is The Usual Suspects‘ scribe Christopher McQuarrie, meaning it took three whole people to write this film. That’s three times as many as wrote the entire The Lord of the Rings.
As for Tom Cruise himself, he carries the film with his usual underwhelming reliability, failing yet again to actually play a character. But he does look great for 51, mad as a trout and with the acting range to match. Emily Blunt makes a strong bid for a role in The Expendabelles but doesn’t get much chance to show what she can do, and most of the film is spent desperately willing her not to kiss Tom Cruise.
Edge of Tomorrow was originally due to take the title of its source novel, Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill. Fortunately someone decided that would be unbelievably stupid, and quite how this was ever a book is baffling enough. But throw in the shampoo-based tagline “Live. Die. Repeat.” and we get some idea of where this film is heading, with its eyes closed and yelling throughout. Doug Liman’s bombastic direction carries us through the madness at such frenetic pace that there’s never enough time to breathe, let alone think about how stupid it all is. Without an original thought in its thick skull, it’s never entirely clear why you wouldn’t just watch Source Code, or play the same level of Halo over and over. And over.