When talented director Doug Liman presented the cult-favourite comedy Swingers back in 1996, few would have predicted that almost two decades down the line, he’d be at the helm of a science fiction blockbuster starring Tom Cruise. Liman must therefore be commended for his electric approach to filmmaking, yet while the more intimate, jocular moments serve Edge of Tomorrow well, ultimately, it’s the handling of the more grandiose, monumental themes which let this feature down.
Cruise plays Bill Cage, who finds himself unwittingly caught up in mankind’s cataclysmic war against an alien life form invading the planet. Though adamant he is not a soldier, and admits he’s afraid of the sight of blood – unfortunately for him, General Farrell (Bill Paxton) had different ideas, and sends the petrified soldier out into the heart of the battle. Cage sadly doesn’t last long – however when he is killed by the enemy, he awakes in the exact same place he had the day before, as time appears to have been reset. While nobody believes his wild claims, the same happens over and over again, so when Cage confronts the savage warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), they realise they can use this special power to their advantage, and exploit this privilege of being able to relive the same day over, to help them win this seemingly insurmountable war.
Given the Groundhog Day inspired narrative, there is a remarkably engaging section in the early stages when Cage discovers he has this unique ability, as Liman plays heavily on the playful, jovial tone, making for a hugely enjoyable sequence of events as the same day is played over, and over again. It may have been done before (let’s not forget Source Code, too), but it still makes for such unashamedly entertaining cinema, as we watch on as our protagonist runs through a desperate process of trial and error. However when the tone shifts to becoming more sincere, with immensely dramatic implications, the film suffers accordingly.
Perhaps this is because when the actual war takes precedence, and the future of mankind is at stake, we need to rely on other, mosly undeveloped themes. There is little by way of context, as the entire politics of the piece, and the alien invasion the entire picture hinges upon, is confined solely to a somewhat ambiguous montage of news reports in the opening scene, leaving us a little unaware. Talking of underdeveloped, there’s also an odd sexual tension that feels entirely out of place between Cage and Vrataski. He’s a man, she’s a woman, ergo, they must fancy one another. It’s just a frustrating, superfluous addition just defeats the object of having such a strong female lead, when she’s subjected to a needless romantic subplot.
Meanwhile, the performances are illuminating, and Cruise, as expected, shows off his credentials as one of Hollywood’s most dependable leading men. He has such a domineering screen presence and charisma that appears so effortless. That being said, his intrinsic star quality works against him too, as we struggle to truly identify with him as a common, everyday person, which is exactly what Bill Cage is supposed to be. One of the leading themes is that of a normal, regular guy, thrust into abnormal, irregular circumstances, and therefore allow the viewer to relate, yet it’s not easy to abide by such a notion where Cruise is concerned.
Nonetheless, Edge of Tomorrow remains as an unadulterated, captivating thriller, which revels in being such unreservedly good fun. From the very start, right through to the bitter end, this maintains its fast-pace, resulting in a compelling picture that offers little respite to the viewer. Still, it’s no Swingers.