Liman’s back in form with the excellent sci-fi action thriller that takes the concept of time-loops to ridiculously new levels.
By Ankit Ojha on June 6, 2014

Sci-fi action-thriller “Edge of Tomorrow” stars Tom Cruise (“Jack Reacher,” 2012) and Emily Blunt (“Looper,” 2012). The film is directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” 2002) and set in the near-futuristic timeline when an alien invasion threatens to destroy the planet. While the world wins the war the first time, the extraterrestrials attack back with a vengeance. Amid this chaos, Major William Cage (Cruise)—the slick face of army recruitment propaganda—is now thrown into battle and dies unceremoniously.

Except he doesn’t. He wakes up the day before and realizes every time he dies, time resets. Stuck in an eternal purgatory of living his death over and over, with no way out of this mess, he finds an unlikely ally. “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski (Blunt), a special forces soldier who knows precisely what he’s going through, offers to help, setting the movie’s wheels in motion.

Edge of Tomorrow” quite easily has to be the flashiest return to form for Liman, whose last big-screen spectacle was “Jumper” (2008). While financially successful, the Hayden Christensen starring film became a go-to punching bag for critics. Reviewer Margaret Pomeranz, writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, called it “a real nadir in film experience.” So if you’re a bit skeptical, know these feelings are valid. But—and hear me out—the director’s latest sci-fi action blockbuster is so far off the 2008 film that it’d be advisable to keep those skepticisms aside for just two hours.

Because this movie is fantastic.

If “Jumper” was a VFX showreel, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a visual use-case for GGI in potentially breathtaking environmental storytelling. Viewers are implicitly encouraged to take the atmosphere in before the action kicks in—and boy does it. There’s a lot of breathing space in every consecutive shot of every set piece. You can clearly identify the choreography, the goal, and the onscreen impact, allowing for incredible viewer immersion. (And the makers use that immersion to troll us for a bit—when the jumpscares sneak up on us, we’re likely to be the least prepared for them).

But it’s not just a technical filmmaking achievement—“Edge of Tomorrow” is also incredibly written and boasts a pacy narrative that balances speed with character moments effortlessly. Adapted by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth with rewrites by Christopher McQuarrie, the storytelling retains many dark themes of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s “All You Need is Kill.” It doesn’t, however, shy away from the occasional Looney Tunes-y humor, which, it turns out, is precisely what Cruise seems to have wanted.

Edge of Tomorrow - Still
“Come find me when you wake up.” // Emily Blunt in key art from Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, a Warner Bros. & Village Roadshow Pictures film.

The “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” director, for the most part, understands the rhythm of this film, and it shows. The movie boasts an implicit nuance regarding the many minute aspects of interpersonal relationships in a half-dystopian near future. Each character’s relationship with the in-movie universe, and other people around them, ranges from cynical and borderline malicious to broken and desperate.

The complicated chemistry between the leads often depends more on the internal than the external—there’s more backstory and implication than what we see—but it’s the kind of parasite that consumes you once you start to think about it. This is likely because they are incredible actors and play off each other’s strengths together onscreen. Cruise, in particular, plays his cynical Army propaganda quasi-celebrity to the hilt. His character evolution is gradual, physically and emotionally, but the latter is an insane punch in the gut.

Blunt is great. She’s trained hard for the role and owns it like an absolute boss. Her confidence threatens to overshadow relatively experienced character actors like Bill Paxton (“Aliens,” 1986) and Brendan Gleeson (“In Bruges,” 2008). For their part, both Paxton and Gleeson are very welcome and entertaining throughout the film’s runtime, along with other equally good supporting turns from Noah Taylor (“The Double,” 2013) and Kick Gurry (“Speed Racer,” 2008).

Edge of Tomorrow” uses the boundless cinematographic talent of Dion Beebe (“Nine,” 2009), whose breathtaking work covers the ruins of the future with sweeping landscapes and occasional close-ups. Between stoic movement to palpable frenzy, the photography work is impeccable and understands environmental storytelling, efficiently utilizing the real estate of each frame. 

The edit by James Herbert and Laura Jennings covers the movie in a very linear fashion—ironic, considering its time-loop plot device. Their work here is a fascinating film study on the dynamic nature of jump cuts. From kicking you out of being within a hair’s breadth of winning to ellipses that stretch time to suffocate us and the occasional cut that makes you LOL, the duo’s got you covered. With Christophe Beck’s (“RED,” 2010) eclectic soundtrack and immersive sound design, viewers have a fully satisfying filmmaking experience for themselves.

If there’s just one stickler in the film, it’s not one I personally have. Still, the ending (without spoiling much) might certainly divide the audience. Despite this, “ Edge of Tomorrow” is a brilliantly written, acted, and directed sci-fi action film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Packed with bombastic action and boundless style, the film is a strong must-watch on IMAX, with repeat viewings likely if you can’t get enough.