Tom Cruise may be getting older, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving 110% in every role. With ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ it’s paid off. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) makes use of a solid screenplay (based on “All You Need is Kill,” by Hiroshi Sikurazaka), in addition to Cruise’s and Emily Blunt’s acting chops to create a product worth checking out. It’s impossible to ignore the ‘Groundhog Day’ jokes, but ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is no joke.
One element of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ that makes it so good is Cruise’s ability to sell his transformation from self-absorbed public relations officer Major William Cage into a legitimate hero. Minutes into the movie Maj. Cage is informed that he’ll participating in a D-Day-type invasion that he helped sell to the world — and he isn’t happy. His response to the direct order given General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) is to try his hand at blackmail:
“I appreciate the confidence, general. I do this to avoid doing that. I was in ROTC in college, the war broke out, I lost my advertising firm — here I am. I do what I do — you do what you do, but I’m not a soldier, really. … General, I just inspired millions of people to join your army, and when the body bags come home and they’re looking for someone to blame, how hard to you think it would be for me to convince people to blame you? I imagine the general would prefer to avoid that. … I would prefer not to be filming acts of heroism and valor on that beach tomorrow.”
The general responds by having Cage arrested. As Cruise’s character tries to flee he is knocked out, only to wake up at a staging area for the next day’s big battle. Each time Cruise’s character dies throughout the movie, he is jolted into consciousness at that location; there he meets Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton). The no-nonsense NCO puts Cage in his place:
“You’re a coward and a liar putting your life above theirs. The good news is there’s hope for you, private. Hope in the form of glorious combat. Battle is the great redeemer. The fire and crucible in which the only true heroes are forged. The one place where all men truly share the same rank, regardless of what kind of parasitic scum their were going in. … I envy you, Cage. Tomorrow morning you will be baptized — born again.”
Farell’s words are prescient — Cage is born again many times, and the sergeant’s assertion “through readiness and discipline we are masters of our fate,” becomes one of the major themes running throughout the movie. “You might call that notion ironic, but trust me…you’ll come around,” he tells Cage. It takes countless “deaths” for him to realize the wisdom embedded within the quote, but eventually it takes hold.
Cage needs help if he’s going to save the world from invading aliens, and Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), also known as the “Angel of Verdun,” fills the role. At one point in time Rita shared Cage’s ability to “reset” with each death, but lost the power. Between the two of them, they slowly and methodically go about figuring out how to save humanity from the alien “Mimics.” Overall, Blunt delivers — she is believable as a woman who could slice and dice her way through deadly tentacled aliens.
What made her character even more interesting was that as Cage began to learn more about her (and become more attached) with each death, she still managed to keep her guard up. No matter how many intimate details Cage knew about Rita, he would never truly know her until she decided that she knew him enough to relax and present him with her “real” self — the one behind the tough-talk soldier exterior.
Like ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ Cruise’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ wants us to know that people can change. It is possible to turn a cowardly liar into a courageous hero. It is possible to overcome seemingly impossible odds. “Through readiness and discipline we are masters of our fate.”
There is a treasure trove of positive messages in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ that, coupled with Cruise’s ability to carry a film, make it worthy of your time. Movie money used on seeing ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ in theaters is money well spent. If you like science fiction movies, give it a chance. You’ll be glad you did.