I’m not quite sure what it was that drew me to Edge of Tomorrow. Maybe it was my love for sci-fi movies. Maybe it was that people kept telling me it’s not a run-of-the-mill Tom Cruise movie. Whatever that initial luring quality was, there is one thing I can confirm: this is not your average Tom Cruise movie.
Different isn’t always better. In this case, however, I believe it is. Far from your average shoot-em-up Cruise film, Tom’s character starts the movie as the public face of the military assault on alien invaders, who is actually a media relations specialist with no interest in going into combat. When he’s forced into the front lines, he goes kicking, screaming, bribing, and blackmailing, but go he does . . . then he dies. And he wakes up on base to do it all over again. For the rest of the movie, he’s left to figure out what’s happened to him . . . and how he can use it to defeat the aliens and save humanity.
While Edge of Tomorrow is certainly a fun and intriguing sci-fi film, it’s hardly original. Anyone casually familiar with the Star Wars prequels or The Avengers will be struck with familiarity at learning more about the aliens, the plot’s main construct is seemingly taken right from the pages of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the fighting technology seems like a more pragmatic version of Robocop.
With that said, sometimes a new combination of familiar elements can make films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres fun, and the film certainly is that. The action sequences are really cool, even with the repetitiveness as necessitated by the plot’s central construct, and acting takes the film, even if only slightly, above the average mark. Cruise portrays a transition from selfish coward to dedicated soldier with ease, and Emily Blunt’s character, while not displaying a lot of development in the sense of change, is a joy to watch. So as a fun sci-fi film to get on Redbox and kill a couple hours with friends, it works pretty well. But as a valuable and compelling piece of cinema, it’s little more than a spoiled opportunity. (*Some small spoilers may be contained in the following paragraphs. I have avoided specific plot details, but vague ideas of what happens in the end are mentioned).
The most remarkable thing about this film, beyond the nerdy science fiction alien invasion scenario, is the character development of the film’s main character, Cage. He literally runs from duty in the beginning of the film, and continually makes excuses in the first twenty minutes of the film for why he can’t fight. Slowly but surely, he overcomes that, morphing into the sacrificial soldier that we expect our heroes to be. In that moment, he is more of a typical Cruise action hero, but it’s not as likely to instigate eye-rolling because there’s been character development. The message at that point, and especially at the film’s apex is clear: true soldiers give themselves when it’s needed.
But then the film, like a rookie pitcher, fails to follow through. The message of sacrifice, arguably the most Christian of all virtues, reverts to a typical portrayal of the invulnerability of movie action heroes. It one fell swoop, it all but undoes the point of having a sacrificial hero. In taking what could have been a moving story more in line with what makes war movies so moving, it settles for a mostly shallow Tom Cruise action movie that happens to have some aliens and stuff.
In the end, the film is fine as it is. Aside from a couple instances of innuendo and some (mostly) mild language, the film is very clean, has some awesome battle scenes, and a cool time-space exploration. But if you’re looking for a film of substance, that makes you want think about humanity, virtue, and how you measure up, then this isn’t it. So if you want a RedBox film to burn a couple hours with a few friends, then go for it. But any more of an investment is probably not worth your money.