The idea of an original science fiction concept in the modern era of franchise blockbusters is an increasingly tantalising one. Yet whenever Hollywood throws a ton of money at a new concept, in this case an adaptation of cult Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill”, it’s always just a rehashing of what’s worked before. Edge of Tomorrow wears its influences (its Starship Troopers meets Source Code!) like a badge of pride, not entirely unlike Tom Cruise’s previous sci-fi starring role in last year’s Oblivion. However, where that film was cliched through the stealing of narrative elements from seemingly every other sci-fi movie in existence, with everything from Moon to the Phantom fucking Menace thrown in, Edge of Tomorrow is thrilling in its streamlining of influences. Sadly, it doesn’t really do anything more than live up to the “Starship Troopers meets Source Code” tag, let alone better either of those films, but it is undeniably enjoyable throughout.
In the midst of a war when an alien race known as “the mimics” (sadly not because the film openly mimics its influences) has taken over mainland Europe, spokesperson for the newly created United Defence Force William Cage (Tom Cruise) is flown to London, in the middle of Trafalgar Square in a private helicopter, to be asked to help on the front line in Normandy. After an ill-thought out blackmail attempt to ensure he doesn’t have to fight, he is arrested and wakes up at Heathrow airport, now inexplicably serving as an army training ground, because the filmmakers probably wanted more London cultural landmarks included here. After a quick death upon arriving at the frontline for the first time, it becomes clear he is caught in a 24 hour loop that he won’t be able to get out of until he kills the “Omega”, the sentient being that controls the mimics, and has an ability to reset time presumably responsible for him being stuck in a time warp, again.
The film is never more fun than in its first half, with its plethora of training/death scenes, allowing for the kind of tongue-in-cheek fun that characterised Cruise’s earliest leading roles. Emily Blunt is even more kick-ass than Cruise as “full metal bitch” Rita Vrataski, who relishes the opportunity to shoot Cruise in the face to restart his day again after the tiniest of errors. Her role is far more integral to the second, less interesting half of the film – but she still manages to rise above the material to steal every scene she’s in. There is also an unoriginal but terrifically fun supporting performance from Bill Paxton, who delivers military douche dialogue like he was born to do it.
Sadly, as both Cage and Vrataski become more equipped with their “infiltrate the mimics, find the omega” task, the film becomes less interesting. Whereas the first half successfully alludes to the fascism satire of Starship Troopers and the “Groundhog Day with terrorism” of Source Code, albeit in a less thematically interesting and more multiplex friendly manner, the second half jettisons these influences to contain an action setpiece that will likely remind viewers of the opening to Team America: World Police. Director Doug Liman has an odd filmography, with no real directorial house style; his films range from the overrated Vince Vaughn comedy Swingers to action fare like The Bourne Identity. This is his second best film after the inaugural Bourne outing, but that may seem like the definition of damning with faint praise.
The film has bombed at the box office, proving that Tom Cruise is no longer the star vehicle he once was. It’s a shame, because this is the best thing he’s attached himself to recently, and even acts as a parable for his own big screen career; kill him all you want, he’ll keep coming back, whether you like it or not.