It’s a universal fantasy that has played out many times in books and films. It can be a gift (About Time). It can be a curse, though a curse with some benefits that could involve saving the world, personal growth, and falling in love (“Groundhog Day,” “Source Code”). In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Tom Cruise plays Major Bill Cage, a slick military officer who stays far away from the fighting by handling press relations for the global effort to defeat mechanical spider-y aliens called Mimics. A general (Brendan Gleeson) wants to send him to the front to get footage of the battle. Cage’s usual smooth patter fails to dissuade him, so he tries blackmail, which so infuriates the general he is demoted and sent to the front, not to shoot movies but to shoot Mimics. He gets hollered at by a Kentucky non-com named Major Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), thrown into a exo-skeletal fighting suit, and dropped from a plane, where he gets killed. End of story.
Except that it isn’t. Cage somehow has been caught up in a time loop that keeps bringing him back to that rude awakening in Farell’s division. Like a video game character, when he gets killed, the system is reset and no one but he remembers that it has all happened before. Over and over, he repeats the same actions. No matter what he does, nothing changes until in the midst of battle he meets up with the war’s most decorated soldier, Rita (Emily Blunt), who looks him in the eye and says, “Come find me when you wake up.”
It feels like a nightmare, but it is not. To explain more about what is going on would be to spoil some of this highly entertaining film’s best surprises. Director Doug Liman and editor James Herbert are terrific at using the re-sets to add energy to the storyline rather than bogging it down. They use different angles and pacing to help us keep it all straight, even though sometimes we follow Cage back to his original starting point and sometimes we join him well into another foray, not realizing until just the right moment how many tries it took him to get to that point. Liman deftly plays the rinse-and-repeat familiarity for both us and Cage as comedy and as thriller as needed. Big props to the creature designers, too. The Mimics are like lethal tumbleweeds made of razorblades, moving at hyperspeed.
Cruise describes himself on Twitter as “running in movies since 1981,” but growing up in movies is something he has done just as often. He is just right as the slick and callow advertising man turned press relations officer who has to find a way to stay alive and then find a way to save the world. Blunt is excellent as the battle-worn veteran. As Cage has to find his inner soldier, Rita has to ask herself whether she can let go of hers, lending just enough emotional heft to the storyline to keep the story moving forward even when the events are repeating.
Note: the DVD release is renamed “Live Die Repeat”
Parents should know that this film includes constant sci-fi/action-style peril and violence with scary aliens and many characters injured and killed. There is some strong language including one f-word.
Family discussion: What did Cage learn about himself by repeating the same day? Why didn’t he tell Rita about the helicopter at first?
If you like this, try: “Source Code” and the graphic novel that inspired this film, All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka