Everybody loves Superman, unless they have to write a story with him in it. Superman’s a pain in the ass for writers. He’s invincible and always morally right, and as a result, creating drama is difficult because… well… what’s at risk for him? Edge Of Tomorrow has the same problem, and it holds the movie back in some ways.
The plot is pretty straightforward; it’s Groundhog Day with the premise that everybody likes seeing Tom Cruise die. Like any good Tom Cruise movie, Cruise plays a cocky weasel whose mouth writes a check his ass can’t cash. In this case, he’s an Army PR shill who plays a pretty, confident face for the news networks, but when he’s ordered to the front lines as a PR rep, he refuses. So they bust him down to private, stick him in an exosuit, and send him to die… and then Groundhog Day kicks in.
It’s actually pretty clever in some respects. For example, arguably this movie has achieved something that no other movie has, wherein the hero goes through a montage a rookie and comes out an expert, and that actually makes sense. It also uses the repeating nature of the script to milk a lot of black comedy out of dying horribly, which is probably part of the reason this movie is going to get bulldozed by Cancer Kids In Love this weekend.
The main problem, though, is the movie negates the ultimate stakes, which is death. Generally, the threat of death is kind of a big deal, and here, well, it’s just a do-over, and one with an unnecessarily complicated explanation at that. The movie kind of half-asses this at the end by taking away Tom Cruise’s extra lives, but by that point he’s been training how to kill alien scum for years. The movie tries to sub in a romantic plot to make us care, but like most action movie romances it’s just a roadblock to seeing more aliens get shot or watching Tom Cruise get hit by a truck.
Finally, the alien scum in question apparently just like killing stupid hoo-mans. Why they’re on Earth when they’ve got magic time control powers is never clearly explained. Maybe they really hated Jack Reacher?
The good news is that Doug Liman is directing, and Liman, whatever his other faults as a filmmaker, knows his way around an action sequence. Basically whenever somebody is shooting something or blowing something up, the movie’s a lot of fun, and Liman makes a point of making the movie mostly about shooting aliens or blowing them up. It’s a shame they wouldn’t give him the hard R: If this movie had any nards, we’d have gotten some Dead Alive grade comedy gore to go with Rambo-style violence.
In the end, Edge of Tomorrow is not a movie you have to run right out and see. But if you like SF war movies, it’s a clever riff on them worth catching.