At last! A science fiction blockbuster (starring Tom Cruise, no less) that actually allows the heroine an equal share of the action! In EDGE OF TOMORROW, that heroine is Emily Blunt, and she kicks ass right alongside Cruise’s reluctant hero until the triumphant end. Blunt, as Sgt. Rita Vrataski, and a script that offers both humor and intelligence, make director Doug Liman’s TOMORROW something of a miracle in the summer popcorn season.
Of course, Tom Cruise is a megastar, and his Major William Cage is the lead character, so this is his story. Cage is a public relations officer for the U.S. Army, assigned to the United Defense Force in Great Britain. The UDF is about to launch an assault against the aliens that have swept outward from a single ship to cover all of the European continent. (These aliens are the coolest creatures ever! They look like gigantic metallic tumbleweeds with a burning heart, and come at you like whirling dervishes. They can burrow in the earth or leap great distances to get at you, and can, well, basically kill you a dozen ways.)
We find out very quickly that our “hero” is a slimy little coward who will do anything to avoid being sent to the front lines to cover the action. He angers the commanding general so thoroughly that the CO has him TASERed and shanghaied to the forward staging area to be deployed with the first wave on the beach. And not as a reporter, either, but as a grunt. He’ll be operating one of the robotic fighting suits developed by The Angel of Verdun, Sgt. Rita Vrataski, author of the UDF’s only victory so far.
Cut to the chase. Cage hits the beach with his squad of losers (you know, the usual crew in a war movie) and promptly dies a horrible death, along with all of his comrades. But something strange happens. He’s killed by a different-looking alien, one that’s bigger and blue, and dies as that creature is blown to bits right over him. Their blood mixes, and instead of waking up in heaven or hell, he wakes up the morning of the day before, with a drill sergeant kicking him in the ribs, just as it happened 24 hours in the past.
I’ll save you a lot of time and just tell you what it takes Cage a few more deaths and repeats to figure out—the aliens have the limited ability to control time. They can reset the day over and over again until they get the outcome they want. That’s how they know the humans are hitting that beach on that particular day, and they’re waiting for them. The assault is bound to be a failure. Now that Cage has “shared blood” with the creature, he has this power, too, and knows what they are facing on that beach.
No one will believe him, of course. Until he meets Vrataski, who has had the same experience, and a disgraced scientist who likes to tinker with alien-killing machinery. Vrataski has learned that the key to winning the war is to kill the hive-like aliens’ unifying central mind, The Omega. But to get to it, they must get across the beach first.
I suppose this middle part of the film would be more humdrum to videogame aficionados, but I confess I found it amusing to watch Cage being killed by the aliens numerous times, being killed by training devices numerous times, breaking a leg and having Vrataski shoot him to start over numerous times. Each time the two of them learn something new from the experience, but hitting “reset” isn’t always easy.
In the climax, our hero and heroine (no, he hasn’t forced her to stay behind for her safety yet!) must fight their way to Paris to destroy The Omega, convincing the squad of losers to go with them. Now it’s pulse-pounding action all the way to the end, even more so because Cage and Vrataski have lost their time-traveling powers due to blood transfusions. If they die this time, it’s game over for human life on Earth.
Sacrifices are made, but, for once, not by the audience. Yes, okay, we probably have to turn off that little voice in our heads that keeps asking how all this time travel crap works. Just relax and enjoy the fact that we have a genuine partnership of hero and heroine; we have a great mix of story and special effects; and we’re not asked to check our brains at the theater door. As a reward for going with the flow, we are even given a little element of romance—nothing extravagant or overt, mind you, but detectable, nonetheless. It’s just the right touch to make EDGE OF TOMORROW worth hitting “reset” to watch more than once.