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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Edge of Tomorrow

Funny, suspenseful and terrifically imaginative, Edge of Tomorrow is a thinking-person's action film.
By Tom Glasson
June 09, 2014
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By Tom Glasson
June 09, 2014
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Edge of Tomorrow tells the story of a cocky, unlikeable man trapped in an inescapable temporal loop where he must relive the same day over and over again. From the trailer alone it was clear this new film by director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) had borrowed heavily from 1993's outstanding live-die-repeat karmic comedy Groundhog Day. The only questions were: how much, and how well? 

Over the past 20 years, a number of attempts have been made to match the Groundhog Day formula, with Source Code and Deja Vu perhaps the most on point, while Looper — though not specifically a 'repetition' film — offered the most refreshing perspective on what it called "that time travel crap [that] just fries your brain like an egg". In Edge of Tomorrow, the allusions to Ramis' film are at their most pronounced, yet — thankfully — they are also perhaps at their best. 

Tom Cruise, putting in his best performance in years, plays the spineless advertising exec turned military spin-doctor Will Cage, who's railroaded by his commander (Brendan Gleeson) and dispatched to the western front as a regular grunt on the eve of a major military offensive. The enemy is an alien species whose arrival, objective and anatomy most closely resemble those of the bugs in Starship Troopers.

As the waves of troop carriers, aircraft and boats swarm across the English Channel towards France, it's hard not to think the timing of this film's release wasn't just a little bit strategic given this week's 70th anniversary of D-Day, yet it neither grates nor bears any significance to the wider implications of the compelling plot once Cruise dies and begins his seemingly endless loop.

Edge of Tomorrow was written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, whose background in IT and video games unmistakably impacted on both the visuals and narrative. For one thing, the soldiers resemble something between human Mech-Warriors and Titan Convertibles, yet it's in the nature of the temporal loop that the gaming analogy is most apposite.

Every time Cage dies, he immediately restarts from the same time and place. It is, in effect, his 'save point', and — just as in gaming — he uses both the pain and knowledge from his previous deaths to extend the time before his next one in order to beat the eventual 'Boss'. In Groundhog Day, the main character taught himself piano. In Edge of Tomorrow, it's martial arts and weaponry. In Groundhog Day, he got to know a woman in order to sleep with her. Here, it's to keep her alive.

That woman is Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a war hero and propaganda darling whose nickname is either 'The Hero of Verdun' or 'Full Metal Bitch' depending on whether she's there to hear it or not. Blunt is spectacular in the role, playing an entirely plausible warrior without having to resort to hackneyed tough-talking or turning her body into a giant muscle in a sports bra. She's less a love interest than she is a trainer, motivator and ally, and the partnership is a delight to watch. 

Funny, suspenseful and terrifically imaginative, Edge of Tomorrow is a thinking-person's action film that will surely stand as one of 2014's best blockbusters.

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