By Eleanor Ringel Cater
You hear that Tom Cruise is starring in a movie called “Edge of Tomorrow” and two things go through your head. Couldn’t they find a better title than one that sounds like an old afternoon soap from the ‘60s?
And this time-loop concept…didn’t Bill Murray do it about as well as it ever could be done in “Groundhog Day?” And wasn’t it done about as routinely as possible in “Source Code?”
Yes, Yes . And yes.
But it makes no difference. “Edge of Tomorrow” is one of the coolest sci fi/action thrillers to come along in quite a while.
The set-up is a tale as old as time. Or at least as old as “War of the Worlds.”
Some nasty alien thingies want to take over Earth, and human beings are considered just so much collateral damage. Resembling a cross between a squid, a scribble and a tumbleweed, said thingies are called Mimics. (A nod, perhaps, to Guillermo del Toro’s 1997 sci-fi film of that name?)
The entire planet is pulling together to stop them. As Chinese and Russian troops march east, American and British troops nuster up for a D-Day-like assault on the bachhead held by the enemy. One of tour side’s leaders is Rita (Emily Blunt), known variously as the Angel of Verdunne and the Full Metal Bitch.
Whlle she’s stomping alien ass, Major Bill Cage (Crusie), crisp as a newly-minted recruitment poster, is selling earthlings on joinng up (his former job was in P.R.)
Imagine his surprise when a lumpy Old School General (lumpy Old School Brendan Gleeon) tells him he’sabout walk the walk instead of talk the talk. Cageis as incredulous as a Miss America Contestant actually asked to bring about world peace. But sassing Old School military types isn’t always a good idea. Cage is frog-marched out of Gleeson’s office and ends up in the staging camp for the imminent assault. It apparently doesn’t matter to ayone that he neither knows how to work his high-tech suit or fire his high-tech weapons. He’s cannon fodder. His demise is less aquestion of if than when.
And sure enogh, he’s barely topped the first hill when he’s wipedout by what he later learns is some Alpha version of a Mimic. (Bigger, badder, bluer)
But as philosophers and Buddhists like to say, an end is only a begiining.
Dead one day, Cage wakes up the next to find he’s repeating the ame time loop that led to his demise. Sorta like Murray waking up evey morning to Sonny and Cher, then bumping into that obnoxious insurance guy he once went toschool with.
This happens over and over and over until one time, Cage s lucky enough to hear the Full Metal Bitch tell him to find her when he wakes up.
And now it’s a whole new ball of wax, as FMB explains to Cage, what’s going on and how his particular predicament could mean Goodbye Miimics.
Instead of becoming repetitive (as it plot indicates), the movie gains depth and texture, thanks to the clever scrpt, Dougl Liman’s canny direction and the coolly assured performances by the cast.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of “Edge of Tomorrow” — and it is troubing —is how much it owes to computer-game morality. Cruise gets snuffed and the screen might as well flash “Game Over.” Then, I don’t know, he goes for a sandwich or checks his email and returns to his seat, ready to run the gauntlet all over again. This makes for some nifty throwaways — at one point, Cruise is hoisting apint at a British pub and his fellow barflies ask him something about the Mimics heading for London. Cruise replies almost casually “I don’t know. I’ve neve gotten his far before.”
The lapses in logic are as numerous as the stars in the sky. But somehow it doesn’t matter. Not only has Cruise and company delivered the first great action movie of the summer, they’ve tossed in a bit of philosophy, too. To wit: “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”