EDGE OF TOMORROW
The basic set-up reminds of a good deal of Groundhog Day (1993), which had Bill Murray trapped in a timeloop forced to live the same day over and over. While both films approach the idea from almost opposing perspectives Groundhog Day as a romantic comedy, Edge of Tomorrow as an alien invasion/war film they share the theme of the man forced to endlessly repeat the same scenario until he finds the perfect winning strategy by bringing together everything he has learned. Soon after, Groundhog Days timeloop scenario played in a number of other films such as 12:01 (1993), Retroactive (1997), Repeaters (2010), even an entire tv series Day Break (2006). In particular, there are a number of similarities to Duncan Jones Source Code (2011), which had Jake Gyllenhaal projected into another mans mind and repeatedly replaying the last few minutes leading up to a bomb going off aboard a train in different combinations in an effort to understand what happened.
That it ventures into a theme that has been dealt with several times before does not detract from the fact that Edge of Tomorrow is a sharp, intelligent and well made film (even more of a rarity for something pitched to the midst of the Hollywood summer season). There is the slim dividing line where Edge of Tomorrow could easily have tipped over to become a mindless Michael Bay-type action vehicle that was all empty spectacle focused around explosions, shooting and mass destruction and certainly the climactic assault on the ruins of The Louvre with a downed plane does approach something of this. It is more the case though that the big spectacular action movie is an element happening in the background and clearly suborned to the story that takes place in the foreground.
The film has a strong character driven story while most action films feature a lead who enters the show tough, dangerous and/or cocky and in command and fully assured of his abilities, by contrast here, Tom Cruises character starts out a slick hotshot whose first actions are to weasel out of combat duty and try to blackmail his superior officer before being listed as a deserter, thrust into combat untrained and without even the slightest clue how to get the safety off his weaponry. The strong arc he undergoes throughout the rest of the film comes to be how we see him being trained, passing through his multiple failures to gain assurance with his equipment and his eventual growth into the person who can singlehandedly lead the rest of the troupe on a mission to win the war.
Doug Liman drives the film with grit and intelligence. This could be Battle Los Angeles (2011) with a brain instead of patriotic flag-waving. I particularly liked the casual nonchalance with which Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt keep treating his daily death or the always reliable gag you invariably get in these timeloop films of Cruise becoming so familiar with peoples responses that he can tell them their entire life stories or avoid punches swung at him with his eyes closed. What I also liked was the way that the plot manages to come with a number of twists that are constantly surprising. Unlike Groundhog Day and its abovementioned imitators, which are essentially about perfecting the same scenario until they get it right, the plot here is constantly changing when one avenue of approach proves impassable and heading off on another thread to the point that the film has the characters ranging between three different countries at various points.
Tom Cruise is one of the those love him or hate him actors but what you cannot deny is that he is a consummate professional in everything he does and is constantly pushing to make the films he is in the best he can. Emily Blunt is a rising actress I have admired. In my mind, she is always associated with British costume dramas or romantic/Chick Flick works. She doesnt seem the sort of actress who readily suggests tough action heroine and so the surprise here is seeing cast as someone lithe, unsentimental and in charge and moreover one who is often ordering Tom Cruise about and running rings around him. The scene-stealer of the show however manages to be Bill Paxton, an actor whose great presence has been missed on cinema screens for much of the 2000s, which he has mostly spent in the often thought-provoking tv series Big Love (2006-11). Here Paxton puts his all into the role of the bawling drill sergeant and manages to own most of the screen to frequently hilarious effect whenever he is around.