I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of Tom Cruise. His perpetual youth has made many of his characters a challenge in believability for me, and I’ll admit I’ve not seen very much of his most recent work, mainly because I just couldn’t get past the fact that I was watching Tom Cruise and not (fill in the blank).
But age seems to have finally caught up with Cruise, and Edge of Tomorrow is the first time in a while where I’ve felt like I was watching a character. Cruise is still the movie star, yes, but his performance, along with Emily Blunt’s, help make the movie much better than the box office numbers suggest.
So, having finally seen Edge of Tomorrow, I’m sharing with you the reasons why I think you should see this film before it leaves the theaters.
1. Tom Cruise finally grows up
Cruise has that face that hardly ages. Since Top Gun, he’s been the action hero without the weight of any history, without much of a past. And the older he’s gotten, the less I’ve been able to accept him as a character with any history. Now, however, I see a Tom Cruise with lines on his face, and it finally feels like he’s coming into his own as an older leading man. And certainly the most recent series of box office non-hits have probably helped ground him a little more in reality. Director Doug Liman almost plays into that, as the actor that will not age is playing the character that has to repeat his days over and over, not aging on-screen either.
This time, however, Cruise’s signature white-toothed ear-to-ear grin is very much out of the picture, and he delivers a solid performance as a man faced with learning to deal with life through his repeated deaths. His relationship with Special Forces officer Rita Vrataski never goes beyond battlefield camaraderie, something a little refreshing to see when there’s a female co-lead. There’s nothing romantic about this relationship — well, OK, there may be a hint of something in a couple of places, but the fact that Case knows what happens next makes it all the more important for him to protect those around him, including Vrataski.
2. Emily Blunt is whip-smart.
Blunt also faces the danger of becoming the romantic interest, and I’m glad to see the movie doesn’t go in that direction. Very much like Pacific Rim, Edge of Tomorrow gives us a soldier who happens to be a woman, not a woman trying to be a soldier. And the fact that she figures out what’s happening to Case very early is a point in her favor — and it assumes the audience is going to be smart enough to keep up as the repeated scenes get shorter and shorter until they start to change.
And while we still get the female action hero in a tank top, it’s not gratuitously sexed up, and there’s nothing in Blunt’s performance to make us think she’s got any feelings for Case at all other than friendship. This could very easily have gone a different way, in the grand tradition of Hollywood making the woman less of a character than the men. Vrataski is also a character who acts on her own, using Case’s ability to further her own mission. She knows what’s at stake from the very beginning, and you can see it in her face when it registers what’s happening to Case.
This also helps cement Blunt as a leading actress who can carry a film, which makes her an even stronger contender for the Catwoman role she’s rumored to be getting in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (but that’s just a rumor until Henry Cavill starts to talk about how cool it would be if… ).
3. The script is smart.
One of our big complaints here — and it’s something we discuss on our podcasts frequently — is that Hollywood usually assumes the audience is dumber than a box of rocks. The very idea that your audience could be smart enough to put two and two together seems to be beyond the typical Hollywood suit. Not so in this case, as the repeat scenes start to move faster and faster, coming with just enough sense of deja vu to remind people where we’ve been, and just enough difference to tell everyone things are moving forward — Case’s reactions being the main thing that shifts.
The screenplay from Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth takes us on a wild ride that keeps moving forward, even when it loops back around to the beginning. And given that Liman started shooting before he had a finished script, it’s a wonder the whole thing doesn’t fall in under its own weight. But it holds together, and gives both Cruise and Blunt a good showcase for their acting and action talents.
4. There’s no romance.
I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating. The relationship between Case and Vrataski is one of comrades-in-arms, at best a reluctant friendship. Even though it’s clear Case feels more for Vrataski — probably because he’s spent many days with her while for her it’s only been two — he never plays the romance card, even when it’s clear he’s trying to protect her from her fate.
Even at the end, there’s nothing to suggest a romantic entanglement is ever in the cards for these two. And that’s smart, because that kind of thing would get in the way of a story like this. Edge of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim rightly eschew the “will they or won’t they?” noise that comes with many B-movie plots that involve a male and female co-lead in an action picture. Because during an alien invasion, with a ticking clock that resets itself, you don’t have time to do anything other than learn as much as you can so you can win. That’s the bottom line in this picture, and it works.
5. There’s no politics.
One of the most refreshing things about Edge of Tomorrow is the absence of any political shenanigans. This movie doesn’t make any attempt to deliver a message. It’s “us vs. them” and “good guys vs. bad guys” in a very simple straightforward action flick that’s not supposed to leave you questioning your government or your morals or your neighbor’s life choices or any of that intellectual snobbery that we get from a lot of Hollywood movies (I’m looking at you, Maleficent).
The aliens are the bad guys. They’re trying to kill us. We don’t need to know why. We don’t need to understand them. We don’t need to try and reason with them. We need to defeat them. Plain and simple. Something that some of our own government elitists should understand a little better in the real world, but that’s a discussion for a different forum.
6. Bill Paxton
As Master Sergeant Farrell, Paxton doesn’t have too much to do, but his presence helps ground the time loops in a way that lets us know exactly where and when we are every time it rolls around. He gives off just enough love/hate that you want to see more of him, but you know each time you do, it’s a bad thing for our hero.
7. It’s Groundhog Day with aliens!
Time looping. Body armor reminiscent of Starship Troopers. Aliens that don’t look like humans with broken noses. What more could anyone ask?
Go see this movie while it’s still in theaters. Don’t make me repeat myself.