Edge of Tomorrow is directed by Doug Liman from a screenplay adapted by Dante Harper. Based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the best way to describe this film is a sci-fi Groundhog Day.
The action unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world.
In the beginning of the story, Lt. Col. William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill; he is tutored by Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who is aware of the time loop and how to exploit it. And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.
The conceit in the film (that the main character is killed and looped back into the story at the same point) is exploited with video game precision and visceral action sequences. Indeed the entire second act of the film is designed around video game play in that to advance in the story Cage must die and be reset to learn from his experience. The film even goes as far as inserting extra levels of training as the story progresses. Live. Die. Repeat.
As an audience member you are as disoriented as the main character Cage as he works out what is happening and repeatedly dropped into the insane combat. With each iteration he learns what is happening and learns from each experience. But dismissing this as merely another film that uses video game aesthetics would be to short change what is a unique and through-provoking take on the genre.
Far from being just an explosion-filled, white-knuckle blockbuster, Edge Of Tomorrow focuses as much on its characters as much as it does its special effects and video game tropes. And this is what sets it apart from other films in this genre.
Doug Liman’s directorial style is to focus as much on his characters as the action — Mrs and Mrs Smith was a classic example of this. In Edge of Tomorrow even though we are endlessly reset to the same point in the story we are cleverly given extra dimensions to the support characters.
Cruise does an excellent job at making us believe in the initially callow Cage, whose self-serving ways are quickly overcome with a genuine desire to discover how to thwart the alien threat. Blunt too, is excellently cast as Vrataski, Cage’s foil and partner in the effort to bring down the Mimics.
The central character dynamic is an intriguing variation (there is some self-aware humour that you won’t see in the trailer) on your average male-female action buddy couple which helps make Edge of Tomorrow more than the sum of its slightly derivative parts.