It was easy to be sceptical about Edge Of Tomorrow. Directed by Doug Liman, who hadn’t made a decent film since half of The Bourne Identity, and suffering from a terrible title change, it had the smell of mediocrity about it regardless of your feelings about Tom Cruise.
Well, put that scepticism aside, because this is a fun and smart action movie that puts a Groundhog Day spin on the ‘mankind’s last stand’ story.
The world is under attack from aliens, but the tide has turned and our forces are gathering in London for one last push across the channel. When military PR man William Cage (Tom Cruise) refuses orders to join the troops, he’s branded a deserter and sent to the front, where he dies. However, Cage is stuck in a loop: every time he’s killed, he wakes up and starts the day over. Can he and “full-metal bitch” war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) use this against the enemy to save mankind?
If you’ve seen the trailer, there’s a good chance that you’ll have got the wrong impression. This isn’t a gloomy, tedious Battle: Los Angeles; this is far more entertaining, using Cage’s ability to respawn to great, often comedic effect. It’s a film that uses the videogame staple as narrative structure in a way that’s much better than that concept sounds.
That the script is deft and darkly funny shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given that it comes from Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. Cruise’s turn as the cowardly and constantly dying Cage might be a bit more of a surprise given his recent choices, but it’s a strong performance.
He’s overshadowed by Blunt, who is fantastic as the single-minded, steely-jawed warrior who trains him to become a killing machine in a simple but effective and welcome gender role reversal.
The final third is less engaging, as Cage does become the kind of hero that we’ve seen Cruise play countless times and the humour becomes less prevalent. Once he’s proficient with a gun and a motivational speech, Edge Of Tomorrow starts to lose what made it stand out and settles into a predictable finale.
However, there’s more than enough here to recommend it. With a tremendous first half and more brains, heart and laughs than any of its promotional material indicated, this is smart, witty, thrilling and, above all, fun.