Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise star in a scene from the movie "Edge of Tomorrow." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)
Time travel is always a sticky plot
device. You either accept it in spite of all its implausibility or you don’t.
Watching Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi action flick, the
viewer will want to accept it. The basic concept behind the movie is best
described as Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopersa unique and
entertaining pairing, creatively synthesized to avoid feeling contrived.
Central to the story, which is set in
the not-too-distant future, is an invasive alien race (“Mimics”) brought to
earth via a meteorite. Their infestation of continental Europe has plunged the
entire world into war, with humanity battling to quell the spread with a
NATO-led force known as the United Defense Force. Major William Cage (Cruise),
the public-relations brain behind the war effort, finds himself thrown into
combat training in the run-up to a major D-Day type offensive after attempting
to blackmail his superior officer. But after dying on the battlefield amid the
doomed operation, he finds himself waking up at the same moment 24 hours earlier.
Again, he dies, and again, he wakes up. Each death has the same outcome: Cage wakes
up and relives the same day.
Stuck in this time-loop, Cage resolves
to use his repeated experience to improve his skill in combating the alien
threat. He eventually teams up with the cold, stern, but skilled Sergeant Rita
Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the poster child for the war. The two work together
during each 24-hour periodover and over againdiscovering what lies at the
heart of the Mimics’ invasion strategy and hoping to exploit Cage’s predicament
to rid the world of the alien menace once and for all.
Based on the Japanese novel Nothing
But Kill, the storyline proves intriguing enough to draw us in. Cruise’s
character is compelling. And the time-loop plot device is used, as it was with
Phil Connors (Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day), to provide the
protagonist with an opportunity for growth. Cage begins as a slick coward who
employs shady means to avoid the fray of the very war he sells. By living and
dying through battle daily and repeatedly, he’s able to hone not only his
combat skills, but also his courage, sense of camaraderie, and commitment to
his duty. The character of Rita Vrataski is successfully developed beyond the
token “action girl” trope and the chemistry between her and Cage is explored
well. Her status as the most seasoned warrior in the fight emerges quite
naturally from within the story and doesn’t feel forced.
All of these elements work so well
together that you’re almost able to overlook the film’s main flaw: it simply
doesn’t work. There is a hole that throws off the entire narrative arithmetic
of the “time-loop” plot device and it keeps the movie from adding up. I won’t
say what it is, but if you spot it, it might be enough to sink the film for
you. One can look beyond the implausibility of time travel, but conceptual
flaws with the rules of plot deviceonce established in the filmare more
difficult to get around. Yet we want to get around it in this case, for Edge
of Tomorrow is compelling and entertaining. With solid special effects,
action sequences, a good catch, and decent characters, it’s a nice reprieve
from the superheroes that dominate the action-adventure genre these days. If
you have it in you to look past the central writing weakness, you’ll have a