Groundhog Day on D-Day. That’s essentially the conceit behind Doug Liman’s new sci-fi epic Edge of Tomorrow. The world has been invaded by alien beings called Mimics. They are ripping through humanity’s defenses like tissue paper. As the film begins, we’re on the eve of an all-out offensive across the English Channel to try to take back Europe with all the firepower humanity can throw against it.
Tom Cruise’s character, Major Gates, is a PR man. He was an advertising guru who got drafted and has been serving as a pitchman for the war effort. Until he’s ordered to get a front-row seat to humanity’s effort and join the assault across the Channel. Gates runs like hell, is captured and wakes up at the staging area for the invasion.
The invasion is a disaster. The enemy knew we were coming. Everyone on the beach dies within five minutes, including Gates who dies sticking a Claymore into a particularly huge Mimic. Then he wakes up the morning of the invasion.
Gates eventually locates someone who seems to know what he’s experiencing without wanting to toss him in a psych ward in Rita (Emily Blunt, who is fantastic). She and a scientist friend of her’s have figured out that the blood of those particularly large Mimics can reset the day if they die. These deaths allow the Mimic Omega Brain to learn mistakes and better coordinate its troops for the next attempt. Now Gates has the ability.
Cruise gets to play against type for the majority of this film. Gates is a coward and a weasel. He doesn’t want to fight. He doesn’t want the responsibility when it’s given to him. He’s hopelessly inept. It’s only through day after day of training from Rita (he still has to convince her every day that the situation exists) that he develops proficiency in the mech-like exoskeletons the soldiers wear into battle (which also, are fantastic). The only way to reset the day is to die and if Gates loses too much of his blood, he loses the ability. This is used to dark comedic effect as Rita in training him, will blow him away every time he can’t get back up.
It’s only after that they develop Gates as a soldier, that they can begin to try to, day-by-day, learn the pattern of the invasion so they can advance to where the Omega is and destroy it.
While not as engaging or character-driven as some of the truly great sci-fi movies, that’s really not what Edge of Tomorrow is going for here. You get non-stop action from nearly the word, “Go”, and Liman delivers his best film since The Bourne Identity. I liked the scenes between Gates and Rita once they’ve clearly spent hundreds (if not thousands) of days and, while she knows nothing about him, he’s clearly made a thorough study of her. I wish there was a little more to it, but it’s still a bunch of summer fun.