Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of tomorrow

Who doesn’t like Groundhog Day? That film’s intriguing concept of a man repeatedly reliving the same day over and over again was always more sci-fi than comedy, and Edge of Tomorrow, which is neither a simple homage to it nor a complete reinterpretation, embraces both these genres (and also the novel concept) firmly enough to create something unique.

In the kind of setup that James Cameron would probably use in his heyday, Tom Cruise plays William Cage, a military major who is accused of deserting the army and sent on a suicide combat mission to battle an alien civilization that has invaded Earth. In the film’s gripping and edgy yet surprisingly fun first act Cage eventually dies, but then immediately wakes up at the day’s start.  Thus the cycle of continuously, agonizingly living the same day begins, where Cage must discover why he’s stuck in this loop, how he can get out of it, but most importantly, learn, one death at a time, how to defeat the enemy.

Morbid as this sounds, the film never loses its sense of humour. Though the trailers promise an all out action film with big guns, battle mech’s and menacing extraterrestrials, it also has plenty of wit to balance the gloomy pessimism. Cruise contributes in a large way in maintaining said balance, employing all the wit, charm and intensity that made him a marquee name. At the film’s start he appears wimpy as a military PR man but his transformation into a confident, battle hardened soldier obsessed with winning the war feels believable, even when he’s the proverbial last man standing. Suffice it to say, this is probably the best Tom Cruise film since Valkyrie and it seems writer Christopher McQuarrie must be the missing piece here, having penned the scripts to both these films (we’ll just forget the Cruise misfire that McQuarrie also directed – Jack Reacher).

As Cruise gets better (with practice), so does the film. The effect feels a little like playing a difficult stage of an engaging video game repeatedly till you have perfected it, anticipating every obstacle. Gamers and sci-fi fans, but also anyone with a penchant for pop culture, are likely to find this relatable and skillfully done. The skillful part is courtesy of director Doug Liman, who channels his storytelling prowess from the glory days of Swingers and Go to keep the pace breakneck but never confusing, even when we are drip fed, selectively, bits and pieces of the overall story. His achievement lies in blending together the best elements of some of the greatest films of the past decades – from the Saving Private Ryan like opening drop into a thumping battlefield to the Starship Troopers like savagery of the attacking enemy – all combined with the actual history of warfare (parallels to Normandy itself but also Verdun).

In the same way the original Matrix inventively borrowed from a plethora of sources but never felt like a plagiarized work, Edge too, in its patchwork format, creates something sublimely original. The end result is that, paradoxically, for a film that epitomizes the burden of repetition, Edge promises to be endlessly re-watchable.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com