Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi riff on the Eastern philosophy of enlightenment: If at first you don’t succeed, die, die again. It’s an Earth-vs.-aliens Groundhog Day in which the critter resembles a flaming land-squid intent on world domination rather than a lovable furry rodent predicting the weather. An unabashed Tom Cruise vehicle created for the international film market (the locations are strictly European), Edge of Tomorrow – it sounds like a daytime soap opera, doesn’t it? – wastes a promising premise with lazy explicative detail that defies any suspension of belief. This is an action flick for those who like form over substance in their popcorn movies which explode onscreen every summer.
The film neatly comes in two halves. The first half is entertaining, a perversely adroit comedy about an inexperienced American officer, William Cage, who’s given the opportunity to hone his combat skills as a result of his unique ability to reset time, that is, to constantly reboot the day upon which he dies in battle with extraterrestrials on the beaches of France. (Think of this as the karmic version of Spielberg’s seminal war movie, but one entitled Saving Major Cage – a point further emphasized by the film’s release on the anniversary of D-Day.) Why this man possesses the convenient faculty to overcome absolutist Newtonian precepts of time and space is difficult to explain here, despite the film’s facile attempts to do so. Suffice to say: The alien made him do it. Still, the scenes in which Cruise’s hapless major fumbles and stumbles to achieve a state of perfection are as winning as anything he’s done in the last decade and a half or so. The movie star comes across as a real human being in this portion of the film – a blithely funny one, in fact – and it’s a welcome experience for anyone who currently finds this actor annoying and controlling, among other things.
The film’s second half, however, disappoints in many respects. The more Major Cage refines his athleticism and agility to vanquish a relentless enemy from another world, the more he morphs into Tom Cruise’s notion of a movie star. A scene in which the actor wears a tight T-shirt and flexes his pumped-up biceps comes out of nowhere, and feels like a desperate display of masculinity proving he’s The Man. Moreover, the final sequences in which Cruise and company (including a miscast, seemingly spray-tanned Blunt) destroy the evil invaders require the audience to shift to autopilot because the script’s attempts to explain the whys and hows simply don’t stick. What to do? What the hell? Just turn off the brain, and you’ll be fine.