Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill, Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow (2014) is a rare beast: an actioner with an abundance of charm and wit. Contorting the classic hero’s journey of redemption and sacrifice into a high concept allegory for how history has a tendency to repeat itself, the film sees Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt facing destiny head-on. In an attempt to win the PR battle in a war long lost, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is removed from his comfy orator role and thrown into the frontline against a formidable alien foe. Enclosed in the biosuit the Allies hope will win the war, Cage is shipped across the Channel to storm the beaches of Normandy in one last big push against the enemy.
Unfortunately – and somewhat predictably – Cage doesn’t last long, dying almost instantaneously on the beach when a large alien collapses and depletes its corrosive blood all over him. However, this is far from game over for Cage and, for reason unknown, he wakes up at the beginning of the preceding day. As the film’s new title suggests, Cage continues to ‘Live. Die. Repeat.’, with the day resetting whenever he dies and each new parallel world superseding the one that went before. With each cycle that passes, Cage progresses from pretentious political spokesman into a fully-fledged fighting machine, yet despite his best efforts he still can’t make it off the Normandy beach. That is until he teams up with celebrated ‘Full Metal Bitch’ Rita Vrataski (British talent Blunt), who helps him unlock the potential of his gift.
Jolting the audience out of their seats at every shot, the playful energy of the script dilutes the story’s confounding premise and allows the viewer to simply enjoy the spectacle on show. The key here is the rhythm and timing of the narrative, meaning that each time Cruise finishes someone else’s lines, or anticipates the attack of an encroaching enemy, there’s a heady mixture of laughter and suspense, engaging the viewer’s hearts and minds in a way most actions films don’t. While Cruise shines, Blunt is made to make the most out of limited resources, often left to crawl along the floor in a low-cut vest or pout dangerously at the camera. It’s a shame that so much of her energy and charisma is lost under this warrior woman façade, but Blunt still manages to escape relatively unscathed from a genre notorious for objectifying and nullifying women.
The gimmick of endless resurrections acts as a delightfully astute condemnation of the regurgitation of ideas and the repetitive nature of contemporary blockbusters. However, whilst refreshing in its intelligent approach to populist filmmaking, Liman’s latest still lacks the originality or satirical stab of comparable films like Groundhog Day (1993) and Starship Troopers (1997), and it would have been nice to see a little more imagination and depth to the direction. For a piece that inhabits so many parallel narratives, Edge of Tomorrow is surprisingly bereft of layers. A greater existential examination into memory, trauma and death might have contextualised the flurry of on-screen violence into a rather powerful anti-war parable. However, we shouldn’t overlook that Liman has managed to create a genre film that brings far more to the table than your average multiplex epic.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble