‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Review: All You Need Is Cruise

'Edge of Tomorrow'

Movie Rating:


It’s been a while since I’ve had reason to get excited about a Tom Cruise movie. Though his last decade included the underrated ‘War of the Worlds’ and the wonderfully goofy ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’, good Cruise movies have become the exception rather than the rule. Thankfully, Doug Liman (a man in need of a comeback himself) has delivered the star’s best film in a damn long time, and all he needed to do was kill Cruise over and over and over and over…

On the surface, there’s nothing hugely original about ‘Edge of Tomorrow’. It’s essentially ‘Groundhog Day’ meets ‘Aliens’ filtered through a wash of ‘Matrix’ and anime influenced production design. The trailers and posters all seem to suggest another dull and personality-free Cruise-fed sci-fi blockbuster along the lines of last year’s abysmal ‘Oblivion’. Yet, while notoriously flighty director Liman’s new movie might not be particularly original, it’s incredibly creative in how it explores its central premise. Despite the generic Americanized title (the film is based on a Japanese novel with the much weirder title ‘All You Need Is Kill’), ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is a witty and delightfully self-conscious trip through blockbuster tropes that may not reinvent the wheel, but at least makes you feel as though you haven’t seen that wheel a billion times before.

The movie kicks off with an alien invasion that has claimed most of Europe. Through a flurry of news reports, it becomes clear that the war has apocalyptic potential. Smilin’ Tom Cruise stars as military spokesman in a well-pressed uniform assigned to go on TV and convince young folks to sign up for their inevitable deaths. Just before humanity’s last big push, a no-BS general (played with the crabby grace only Brendan Gleeson could provide) insists that Cruise join the fight himself. Given that pretty boy Cruise is a talker not a fighter, he tries to negotiate and then blackmail his way out of combat, before being knocked out and waking up on the front lines. A snarling Bill Paxton shoves him into a dirty unit of killers despite being woefully unprepared. He catches a glimpse of Emily Blunt’s robo-suit enhanced killing machine lovingly known as the “Full Metal Bitch” before promptly dying on the battlefield at the hands of an alien slimeball.

Then things get interesting. Cruise wakes up just before battle once more and lives through the exact same day again and then again, a la ‘Groundhog Day’. Eventually, Blunt discovers Cruise’s plight, and it turns out that she’s been through the exact same experience in a previous battle, which is what transformed her into a coldhearted killer in the first place. This is all tied into the alien race they’re fighting, which is so difficult to kill because its leader can control time and constantly resets battles until they defeat their villains flawlessly. By getting doused in one of those special alien’s blood before death, Cruise now has that power, and over an unspecified series of repeated days gradually transforms himself into a killing machine.

This brings an interesting parallel to videogames, with Cruise becoming the unstoppable action star that we all know from countless genre movies by dying repeatedly and learning how to defeat his enemies through pattern recognition.

The repetition conceit also allows Liman to have big heaping piles of fun as a filmmaker. The movie has an element of slapstick ‘Looney Tunes’ violence to Cruise’s repeated deaths that is not lost on the director. He milks it for all sorts of comedy and editing effects potential. And yet, what makes the movie really stick is how none of the characters ever loses sight of the tragedy of the situation. Every time Cruise jumps awake, you can feel his pain. The best passages of the script set up scenes where the audience is unaware of just how many times Cruise has played out this same scenario until somewhere in the middle. In particular, a sequence involving Cruise with pained sunken eyes, Blunt and a helicopter offers a genuinely moving moment at the center of a big, thrilling and wonderfully silly popcorn picture.

Eventually, the repeating-day-scenario is ditched for a third act of world-saving heroism, and the movie is less interesting for it. (On first viewing, I’m not sure that the ending holds together.) That’s not to say that the last act is bad, of course. Limon shoots his action from the ground level center of the carnage as he did in ‘The Bourne Identity’ and delivers the requisite thrills and satisfying button-pushing expected from this sort of movie. The trouble is that it all pulls ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ back into a conventional comfort zone after about an hour of genuine creativity. Still, complaining about a summer action blockbuster having a happy ending is about as pointless as complaining that a horror movie is scary. That’s just part of the ride.

Everyone involved has delivered wonderful work. For Liman, it’s easily his tightest and most effective movie in a decade. For screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie it’s his most satisfying script since that one with the big Kevin Spacey twist. For the character actors like Gleeson and Bill Paxton, it’s a chance for winking tributes to past performances. For Blunt, it’s an unexpectedly effective badass action role added to a delightfully eclectic and impressive résumé. And for Tom Cruise, it’s an ideal star vehicle that delivers everything audiences want from him while also adding in layers of comedy, tragedy and unique acting challenges.

In short, this is top tier popcorn filmmaking and a wonderful bit of summer movie fluff that will likely end up being the most pleasant surprise of 2014’s blockbuster season.

What Did You Think of 'Edge of Tomorrow'?

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  1. Phil Brown

    I saw it in IMAX 3D. The post converted 3D was pretty bad and given that most of the movie was shot in handheld cameras, it added nothing. It’s a shame that the film can’t been seen in IMAX without the 3D, because the added scale suited the movie nicely. But the 3D is so lackluster that it really isn’t worth the inflated ticket price.

    • Timcharger

      I went to see it in IMAX, and it was also in 3D.

      I disagree with your claim that 3D “added nothing”. You mentioned the benefit of IMAX “adding scale” to the movie. If the extra screen real estate added scale, I found that the 3D depth added even more scale.

      The aliens being an “octopus of arms” also benefited from the 3D image. How they attacked and moved was better demonstrated with 3 dimensions.

      However, Edge of Tomorrow isn’t like Gravity or Life of Pi where 3D is a must. It did benefit from 3D,
      but I wouldn’t say that it would be a completely different experience without 3D.

  2. Drew

    I saw this in IMAX 3D, and I completely disagree with Phil. I felt that this was one of the better recent post-conversion jobs.

    The 3D isn’t lackluster, and it added impressive depth to many of the money scenes. This results in a more realistic sense of the vastness of the environment, as well as a grander scale.

    Was the 3D conversion necessary? Probably not. However, if you’re a fan of 3D in general, I’ll almost guarantee that you won’t regret seeing it in IMAX 3D.

    Ultimately, I’m very happy that this film was given a 3D conversion. This will help it become a major success, internationally. And the film is good enough to deserve every bit of financial success possible.

  3. My stupid theater keeps their screens so dimly lit, that 3D is often a waste of time. I couldn’t see HALF of Godzilla because everything was so dark. Thankfully, X-Men had enough daylight action (and was native 3D to boot) that it wasn’t such a hindrance. But I’m guessing this film has a much darker look to it, so I’m going 2D so I can actually SEE the action. 🙂

  4. T.J. Kats

    Loved the movie and will join the side of wasn’t a fan of the 3d conversion. I thought with a lot of the fast movement there was a bit of blurring. While it wasn’t horrible I think for me anyways 2d would have been better.

  5. Not sure why people think Cruise has not made a good movie in a while, Oblivion which was only last year was a great and well done movie. Yeah the basic story was something that has been seen tons of times on TV and in theaters but in an age where every story has been done to death, it’s how it gets done that matters. Cruise has always been good in anything he is in, even in movies I usually won’t shell out a ticket price for like “Jack Reacher” I am impressed and will probably see the sequel in theaters as long as the reviews are decent. I am totally seeing this tomorrow and have been looking forward to it ever since seeing the first trailer.

  6. Timcharger

    If you thought Oblivion was “abysmal” like Phillip does, then we’re on different worlds (or different timelines).

    I actually thought Edge of Tomorrow complimented Oblivion. These 2 sci-fi films shared NOT the same themes or similar storylines, but they share a similar sentimentality.

    They had this emotional core that related to each other. I can’t quite describe it.

    They were like good food and wine pairings. I can’t tell you exactly why this-food goes well with that-wine, but they just compliment each other.

  7. William Henley

    I am on the “Oblivion sucked!” bandwagon. Not only was the movie awful, but it seems as if the stars just did not care about their roles. But enough about that movie.

    Edge of Tomorrow was awesome, and by far the best movie Cruise has made in years! I felt like it was an adrinaline ride! I was expecting this movie to be just as bad as Oblivion, and really cared nothing for seeing it, but I am so glad now that I was dragged to it. This is not only one of Cruises best movies, but I will go as far as to say this is the best movie I have seen this year! While the theme has been rehashed a few times in the past, the story was really solid, you had a confident director, and a cast who seemed to really care about the project. The movie was non-stop action, add in a sci-fi element, a war theme, and a love story, and you got movie magic.

    I saw this on a CineCapri in 2D and Dolby Atmos. The movie was a ride! As much of a 3D fanboy as I am, though, I would have hated seeing this in 3D – the action onscreen is so jerky, I am sure it would have been a nauseating experience to see it in 3D.

    I may end up going to see this movie again before it gets released on home video. Highly recommend.

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