We’ve been here before. A character caught in a metaphysical loop and forced to live the same period of time over and over again has become a common sci-fi trope.
In “Edge of Tomorrow,” the man caught in a loop is Tom Cruise, who — one could argue — has made a career out of a repeating loop of running and explosions.
Fortunately “Edge of Tomorrow” has a bit more going for it than a simple gimmick and an international movie star and the result, while far from earth-shattering, is a satisfying summer-movie experience.
Set in the not-too-distant future, an alien race has landed in Germany and proceeded to systematically wipe out humanity. A last-ditch counter-offensive is planned where soldiers in mechanized bodysuits are to storm a beach in France. In case you haven’t noticed, this movie is totally in love with World War II references.
Cruise plays Major Cage, a smarmy, cowardly P.R. officer who gets pressed into front-line service after he hacks off his commanding officer General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson).
Thrown into a ramshackle squad led by Master Sargent Farell (Bill Paxton, brilliantly chewing scenery in what I can only assume is a several-years-too-late audition tape for “Inglorious Basterds”), Cage is dropped onto the beach and after a few minutes of impressive battle carnage featuring some pretty cool-looking aliens, Cage — inept soldier that he is — gets killed.
Since this is not the shortest and gutsiest summer movie ever, Cage surprisingly wakes to find himself alive on the eve of the invasion only to be sent back to the beach to die over and over again.
In many ways, this movie feels like a video game, and as anyone who has ever picked up a controller will tell you, the dude who has an infinite-lives cheat code will eventually win the game.
Cage eventually becomes a better soldier (although not as quickly as you might expect), but no matter what he does he cannot seem to change his fate on the battlefield. He eventually joins forces with war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), and the two attempt to use Cage’s never-ending time loop as an advantage in the fight against the aliens.
Blunt is the main reason this movie works as well as it does as her character is every bit as badass as Cruise’s without surrendering an ounce of her femininity. Blunt, Scarlett Johansson, and Jennifer Lawrence just might be quietly ushering in a golden age of the female action star.
Director Doug Liman does a good job handling the tricky narrative and somehow manages to keep the action sequences from feeling overly repetitive. He even makes space to work in a few gags along the way, which keeps the movie from feeling too heavy-handed.
There are some complaints to be made, as the movie gets a little loose and flabby in the middle and while it flirts with some big ideas, it never really steps up to the plate to challenge the audience. Fortunately, it is entertaining enough that it doesn’t really have to.
What is most satisfying about the movie is Cage’s arc from lily-livered jerk to noble hero. It is a transition that is fun to watch and well-earned, even if most of the character development comes in the form of a montage.
In the end, most summer blockbusters are sequels and rehashes anyway, so it’s remarkably easy to embrace a movie that cuts out the middle man and just copies itself over and over again. At the very least, you only have to purchase this movie ticket once.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive material.