Some folks immediately dismissed “Edge of Darkness” once they heard the name Tom Cruise and science-fiction joined together again. Not me. This was one of my most anticipated films of 2014. Unlike many I enjoyed Cruise’s last sci-fi project “Oblivion” although it was a movie with noticeable flaws. Now he’s back playing in a science fiction sandbox filled with a strong script, cool special effects, and a time loop angle that makes this film feel undeniably unique despite it dabbling in familiar territory.
“Edge of Darkness” is based on a Japanese graphic novel entitled “All You Need Is Kill”. At first glance it may come across as a typical, run-of-the-mill alien invasion picture. Times are bad on planet earth and the human race is close to extinction. Our last hope lies in a big beach invasion on the European coast akin to D-Day. But while many aspects of that will sound very familiar, the movie throws us a clever curveball which is not only fresh but very entertaining.
Cruise takes on a very different role than we are used to seeing him in. He plays Major William Cage. That may sound like a macho military tough guy name but actually he’s a public relations specialist who works to encourage people into service while avoiding it himself. There’s no heroic and attractive golden boy aura. He’s actually an unlikable and cowardly man who soon finds himself tossed onto the frontlines of the big invasion. The battle doesn’t go well and the untrained and combat-ineffective Cage is killed in action. But instantly after death he wakes up at a past point before the invasion took place. Over and over this takes place and Cage must adapt while repeatedly reliving the doomed invasion.
We are also introduced to a character named Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). She’s a Special Forces Sergeant who has an almost legendary status following her inspirational fighting in an earlier battle against the aliens. She crosses paths with Cage on the battlefield but their connection may go beyond that. Vrataski is a really cool component and not only does she add a lot to the story, but she gives us a strong and capable female lead. I was immediately drawn to her toughness and resolve.
If you’ve read other reviews you’ve probably heard this film compared to the Harold Ramis comedy “Groundhog Day”. That’s an undeniable comparison. Someone else said it best – “Edge of Tomorrow” is an entertaining mix of “Groundhog Day” and “Starship Troopers”. The trippy time loop element works really well within the sci-fi environment and its definitely more than just a gimmick. Director Doug Liman uses it as a focal point and it could have easily went bad. Instead it’s a ton fun and not only does it make for a great plot device, but it also opens the door for some of the movies genuinely funny moments.
Tom Cruise does a nice job going against type and reminding us that he is still a quality actor when given good material. I quite liked him here and he showed that he is still an actor with noticeable range. Emily Blunt once again shows that she is an actress who can play almost any role that she takes on. She never flinches in response to the physical demands of her character and you never doubt her authenticity. We also get Bill Paxton having fun playing with Master Sergeant stereotypes and we get Brendan Gleeson who is always good regardless of what he is in.
So far 2014 has been the year of the really good blockbuster. That is rarely the case but we’ve had several this year that have really won me over. Add “Edge of Tomorrow” to that list. Now it would be very easy to nitpick this movie to death and to point to a few plot points that don’t exactly make sense. But I think the movie works extremely well as a complete package. There’s some good science fiction, strategic funny moments, exhilarating action, and a smart and sharp story that never grows dull. I was thoroughly entertained by “Edge of Tomorrow” and that was exactly what I was hoping for.