Does your cinematic journey require a satisfying ending? Do you think an enigmatic and mysterious premise requires an equally ingenious solution? These questions have divided Lost fans for years since its controversial finale. And your answers to these philosophical inquiries may determine how much you enjoy Edge of Tomorrow, the new sci-fi action film starring the Master of the Green Screen, Tom Cruise. It’s a clever premise combined with nice character development and intense action sequences that all lead to a cheat of a conclusion.
Cruise plays Major William Cage, a military PR man who literally doesn’t know how to find the safety on an automatic weapon. Cage’s job is to sell the public on the war between Earth and intergalactic invaders known as the Mimics who have established a foothold in Europe after a devastating invasion. The entire world is preparing for one big surge to defeat the Mimics and reclaim Earth as our own. And Cage has just gotten the word that he is going to be embedded with the troops “on the beach” in the first wave of the assault.
Upon receiving the news, the swagger and cockiness drains out of Cage, and panic sets in. The next day he finds himself sweating profusely inside a weapons-laden metal exo-skeleton being dropped from a flying troop transport into the thick of the fight. The battle isn’t so much a fight as a massacre. The multi-national human force is slaughtered, and Cage dies right along with everyone else. It’s almost as if the Mimics knew the assault was coming.
As Cage meets his horrific battlefield demise, he “awakens” at the European headquarters he left from just hours earlier. Once again it’s the day before the big military surge. Events unfold in the exact same manner with an equally fatal result. And Cage awakens again on the day before the big showdown. He’s caught in a time loop. He doesn’t know why, and he needs to determine how he can use it to the Earth’s military advantage.
Edge of Tomorrow proves to be a near-perfect blend of action and character development. The initial battle on the beach plays like a sci-fi Saving Private Ryan. The audience is thrust onto a chaotic battlefield peppered with explosions as confused soldiers scramble to find their bearings and take the fight to the enemy. We share in the sensory overload of a large scale battle and immediately feel the futility of the mission. But, then after experiencing this bravura action sequence, the explosions and bloodshed surprisingly fade into the background, and a character-driven drama emerges from the summer blockbuster premise.
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt prove to be perfectly cast. The earnestness of their performances grounds the narrative and allows the audience to fully invest in the film. From Cage’s initial battlefield ineptitude and Blunt’s bluster and bravado to the private moments between them away from the fray, the two performers give us well-rounded protagonists who are trapped in circumstances beyond their comprehension. It’s the audience’s identification with them as people that allows the fantastical premise to work so well for about 90% of the film’s length.
Every science fiction film that successfully tackles time travel, time loops, time paradoxes and the like has its own internal logic, a set of rules that are defined as the action progresses. In the truly superior films, an extension of that logic is then used to fashion a clever solution to the situation at hand. In the more average films, that logic exists until it’s no longer convenient to abide by the established rules. Unfortunately, Edge of Tomorrow falls in the latter category, and the final fifteen minutes devolve into a standard (boring?) summer shoot ‘em up with an ending that feels tacked on by studio execs after they tested the film on focus groups.
However, don’t let my complaints about the ending scare you away. Edge of Tomorrow is a superior piece of summer entertainment, and the questionable conclusion does not destroy the enjoyment of the journey. With a little tweaking, the film could’ve been a modern science fiction classic. Instead, it’s an enjoyable two hours at the theater that may not stick with you very long after you’ve seen it.
8.3 out of 10
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.