Movies and video games have never made the easiest of bedfellows, so it’s ironic a film based on a book should inadvertently capture what makes great games tick.
Although Edge Of Tomorrow inevitably attracts comparisons to Groundhog Day in its time loop structure, Major William Cage’s (Tom Cruise) seemingly endless replays and slow, obsessive battle to defeat the bad guys brings to mind the likes of Halo and other highly intensive action games.
In fact it wouldn’t have looked out of place for the words ‘Game Over’ to appear each time Cage dies before respawning at the same point, while its tagline ‘Live. Die. Repeat.’ will be familiar to millions of gamers trying to progress through their latest game.
Setting aside his odd personal beliefs, you have to hand it to Cruise for having managed to remain at the top of the tree for more than 30 years. He’s also done it on his own terms and has often been prepared to use that winning smile he became famous for early in his career to subversive effect.
Here, the smile is used to sell the allied war effort against an invading alien race known as Mimics who have conquered most of Europe. In spite of his senior rank, PR guru Cage has seen no combat, choosing instead to fight the war in front of the TV cameras as the face of the United Defence Forces (UDF).
So when UDF commander General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) informs the cowardly Cage that he’s being embedded on the frontlines for Operation Downfall, the UDF’s all-or-nothing invasion of France (it can’t be a coincidence the film has been released in the US on the 70th anniversary of D-Day), Cage unsuccessfully attempts to worm his way out of it.
Deployed in the first wave, Cage is killed within a few minutes, only to suddenly awaken back at the barracks, where the invasion begins all over again. With the help of super soldier and UDF poster girl Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who appears to be the only one who understands what is happening to Cage, they set about trying to defeat the enemy, one death and one time loop at a time.
Director Doug Liman is now best regarded as an action director, although he made a name for himself with the indie classic Swingers (1996). His form in the genre has been patchy; on the plus side he gave us The Bourne Identity (2002), but this was followed by the smug Mr And Mrs Smith (2005) and the tedious Jumper (2008).
The scales have been balanced with this rousing romp (based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka) that zips along at a dizzying pace and doesn’t get lost in its time-space continuum. Cruise plays a genuinely slimy and unlikable character who is forced to become a better man by the fortitude and bravery shown by Vrataski.
Blunt, who must have a thing for time travel movies after staring in Rian Johnson’s Looper (2012), is a breath of fresh air. It’s a role that demands a strong performance and Blunt delivers it with consummate ease; she’s more than Cruise’s equal on screen and flexes both her acting and physical chops.
The film’s kinetic editing style effectively emphasises the sheer number of times Cage must undergo the same events in order to progress that little bit further each time and the psychological impact it must have is etched on Cruise’s increasingly tortured face.
Sci-fi movies steal from each other all the time and Liman is happy to maintain this tradition. The exoskeleton used in the film is lifted from Aliens and last year’s Elysium, while the influence of militaristic sci-fi flicks such as Starship Troopers is palpable.
As fun a ride as you’re likely to have all summer, Edge Of Tomorrow is a film you’ll want to watch it all over again.