Film Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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The Alpha Male and Omega 

Warning: This review discusses the film’s ending. Don’t read on unless you’ve already lived through a screening of this title. 

The best compliment one can give Doug Liman’s sci-fi war movie is that it’s very well conceived. It’s appropriate that the alien invaders of the piece should be called Mimics, as the down and dirty industrial aesthetic and in-story techno fetishism mirrors the film’s highly proficient, military-grade efficiency, powered by all the tools in the modern filmmakers arsenal. Just as the story pivots on advance planning and variation in order to advance, Liman and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie employ the same strategy to maintain the movie’s momentum.

Time travel’s a problematic device as it can be the enemy of internal logic, but here, despite a modicum of head scratching when the exposition finally comes and an ending that gives you pause, it’s straightforward enough, liberating the film, in its own World War II parlance, to explore the themes it’s borrowed from Groundhog Day; a flawed character who matures while stuck in his time loop, his changing feelings for a woman he gets to know over many iterations of the same day, the empowering notion that we’re each ultimately the masters of our own fate, regardless of how pernicious a lie that is.

Those on Tom Cruise watch who’ve noted that the actor’s last few movies, Jack Reacher, Oblivion, have featured his fifty one year old hands on female flesh some twenty years younger, will groan when noting that he’s at it again here (an in-story justification not withstanding). The difference perhaps is that Emily Blunt, introduced many times over with a highly sexualised body movement, is the leading man’s equal in narratological terms: a war hero as the movie opens, whose prowess on the battle field and courage far outstrips the Crusier’s spineless PR man, forced to participate in a futuristic reprise of the D-Day landings. Of course Blunt doesn’t open a movie, more’s the pity, so it can’t last nor does it. Cruise’s character, forced to relive the same day over and over again, gets tougher and more lethal with Blunt’s help, eventually forcing her into a subordinate role. Once he’s suited up as hero, Blunt ceases to be the woman who can save Cruise, becoming someone he’s determined to save. You know it’s coming but can’t help reflect how unfortunate it is that Liman and co. didn’t find a workaround.

Nevertheless Cruise’s transition from propagandist, all teeth and plastic charm, to hardened war veteran is well handled. The constraints of the premise don’t permit any other character to enjoy an arc per se, but despite this his relationship with Blunt progresses via variation and memorised snippets of biographical insight carried over into subsequent loops. Two characters we care about, forever in extremis, is a good formula for any movie, but it gives this war flick heart; important else it might have been devoured by its impressive spectacle and highly kinetic setpieces. All You Need is Kill was the title of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s source novel, but in a movie like this one all you really need is a human story to temper the slaughter, and Liman’s film achieves that, plus a judicious drop of time-bending intrigue.

If the ending doesn’t quite make sense, the suggestion being that in the final loop the effect from the previous one has carried over, despite events resetting and Cruise no longer having caused those events to happen (shouldn’t the clock either tick on from the Parisian climax or Cruise have to do it all over again?) – giving it a deux ex machina quality – that shouldn’t entirely detract from the fact that for 111 of its 113 minutes, Edge of Tomorrow’s a smart and grandly mounted blockbuster with plenty of war-fetishsizing thrills. Now if only we could find Tom a leading lady his own age…

Directed by: Doug Liman

Country: US

Year: 2014

Running Time: 113 minutes

Certificate: 12A for keeping your female co-star down, a largely bloodless war and the only three people left in London being wizened cockneys.

5 Responses

  1. Joey Cramutola says:

    Who cares if they are 20 years younger you idiot! Tom looks very young still and these girls all look only maybe 8 to 10 years younger!!!! If a woman his age was the leading lady? She probably look 15 years older then him! Smh! Plus age is just a damn number! Can not stand idiots who think like this! And yes I’m 46 and most people think I’m around 30 so guys what? I date younger because that’s what is attracted to me dumb ass!

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Joey, I fully understand why you’d want to knead pert, young feminoid flesh – what man wouldn’t? But just because some women prefer an older man doesn’t mean the middle aged should take advantage. Remember, every young woman you attract with the promise of maturity and life experience, is one less lady for the young bucks looking to make beautiful children with the best quality ejaculate. I say let the young people enjoy each other, rather than dating a woman who was a year old when you were celebrating your 21st birthday. Anyway, who’s to say you won’t find a woman your own age attractive? Believe it or not older women have a lot to offer. Isn’t maturity, strength of character and a cultivated intelligence a lure for you, Joey? Doesn’t the thought of it engorge your Cramutola?

      Still, on the subject of Hollywood, there’s another issue, namely that actors like Cruise shouldn’t insist on young female co-stars in a bid to feel young and virile, as that’s essentially abusing their position of power to service their mid-life crisis. But the target audience don’t want to see an older woman you say? Well perhaps they would if given half a chance. Seems to me older ladies get a tough time in the movie business. They get forgotten or relegated to bit parts. The roles for younger women may be terrible, often ornamental, but there’s more of them, so I say let a woman of Cruise’s vintage have a leading role in a big movie. Let’s see what happens. Prediction: the world won’t blow up.

  2. Jack says:

    ed, white knighting here will not actually get you laid. i suggest you read up on your biology if you are curious as to why tc is able to pull this off.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Jack, I know of what I speak. I’m 37, my wife is 87. What’s curious, if you ask me, is that you should assume my response to Joey is “white knighting” rather than, gasp, what I actually think.

      In the case of this movie and its two immediate Cruise-fronted predecessors, I suggest it’s less to do with biology, more Cruise’s note to the casting director. A note in RED INK.

  3. Tim Earnshaw says:


    For why, because he can act, for one. The first act of this fine, fine movie presents his character as a wheedling, whining coward. His transition into Cruise Control world-saving hero is beautifully done. Aaaand it never occured to me that there was a notable age disparity here, either. He looks great, curse him, without having a big tourniquet of flesh at the back of his head like virtually every other male star I can think of. They make a lovely, convincing couple.

    Groundhog Day (perhaps the Greatest Screen Story Ever Told) shows us you have to be a good person and be loved to be redeemed. Edge Of Tomorrow shows us you have to toss grenades into a great throbbing brain from outer space to save the world. There’s a lesson here, but I haven’t learned it.