I try to separate people’s private lives from the creative work they put out. Only in rare cases is someone so dislikeable that I actively avoid anything associated with them. For instance, Orson Scott Card is a massive homophobe, and because of this, I will not spend any time reading his books. Mel Gibson turned out to be a religious zealot with anger management issues, so I try to spend as little time as possible seeing him on screen. What I am getting at, is that Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise. All signs point to him being a smug control-freak, with a possible messiah-complex. He is also closely associated with a deeply creepy cult. But the concept behind Edge of Tomorrow was too intriguing to pass up just because of Cruise’s involvement.
Edge of Tomorrow is based on a novel with the more oblique but interesting title All You Need is Kill. Aliens land on earth and seem hellbent on conquering the planet, wiping out humanity as they go. People fight back, but the enemy always knows their next move already and keeps pushing forward. Then something strange happens to the high-ranking Bill Cage (Tom Cruise). He keeps dying on the battlefield and reliving the same day over and over again. So, what’s up with that, and can it help turn the tide against the invaders?
I don’t know what the tone of the novel is, but the movie turns into a darkly comic SciFi-variation on Groundhog Day. It’s not often that shooting your lead character in the head becomes a running joke. (The psychological fallout of getting violently killed again and again is not explored.) It’s not all laughs however, the other frame of mind here is ‘epic action movie’. The Grand Finale is a disappointment in that it overloads on fast-moving special effects shots, making the characters seems less like humans and more like sprites from a video game. It is still fairly tense because of the build-up before then, but it becomes clear that the laws of physics – and believability – have been suspended for the sake of spectacle. Something smarter and more low-key would have served the story better.
It’s just as well that Cruise’s character starts off as a douche and only gets sympathetic as the movie progresses. You don’t have to like him at first, you can slowly work up to it. And Cruise does win you over – mostly – though I can think of a list of actors I would have preferred in the role. Emily Blunt makes for a charming leading lady, although her character is no lady, and all the better for it. The movie runs a bit long, taking its time to set up the Groundhog Day scenario, but stays interesting throughout. The internal logic makes less sense the more you think about it, particulary the reason behind the time reset and the way in which the aliens function. But despite this and despite an attack of the stoopids at the climax, the movie is definitely worth seeing.