An early draft of the script for Groundhog Day made an effort to explain the time loop predicament that found Bill Murray’s weatherman Phil Connors reliving the same 24 hours over and over. That sort of exposition would have upset the delicate balance of humor and profundity that that movie achieved, but in the not-dissimilar alien invasion thriller Edge of Tomorrow, it’s part of an intelligently crafted story, and just a small part of the impressive filmmaking chops on display.
Adapted from the 2004 novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, this film would have been well-made regardless of its casting, but the pairing of Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt is an inspired one, and the former’s intensity as a movie star under intense media scrutiny draws poignant parallels with his character’s plight. Cruise plays Major William Cage, a military public relations expert who suddenly finds him on the front lines in a doomed battle against an overwhelming enemy force. After perishing in close quarters with an extraterrestrial, Cage wakes up again on the morning prior, setting into motion an interesting paradox where one man, through literal trial by fire, finds himself with an almost god-like opportunity to change the course of history.
The alien foes are known as “mimics” -- tentacled beasts that prove time and again to be more than they seem. It would be wrong to divulge any more of the plot’s developments, but suffice to say, this is a popcorn extravaganza that rises to the potential of its own material and never condescends to the audience. Director Doug Liman, working with cinematographer Dione Beebe, present the film’s plentiful battle sequences as nearly-overwhelming chaos, but always grounds them with the right number of establishing shots and emphasis on character perspective, and while the central “reboot” device amusingly brings to mind the trial and error experience of a particularly intense video game, Edge of Tomorrow’s expert melding of sci-fi action and thoughtful drama would be better described as dream-like.
Robert Humanick is a contributing writer to slantmagazine.com