Director Doug Liman has always has always been given a mixed reception when it comes to films he has directed. The first that got him noticed was The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon as the secret spy with amnesia. Now Liman returns to directing after 2010’s Fair Game starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn with a vehicle for Tom Cruise called Edge of Tomorrow. Edge of Tomorrow stars Cruise as a man named Cage who in the future working to avoid a war with an alien race. This plan fails miserably and he is enlisted into the army as infantry and during battle inherits the ability to relive the day of that battle as long as he dies every day he tries to save humanity.
This performance by Cruise is nothing short of astonishing. Cruise works very hard to subvert audience’s expectations and at the beginning of the film plays against type. The character is a wimp and doesn’t want to be involved in the war but is forced to be. Cruise and his co-star Emily Blunt have palpable chemistry as soldier’s fighting this war and their relationship is interesting as Cruise’s character relives the day continuously. This film plays with audience’s established expectations of what Cruise can do as an action hero which makes the film exciting once Cage actual becomes that in the film.
The biggest surprise of this film is the amount of humor infused within the action that takes place. This film is a sci-fi action Groundhog Day. I was personally thrown by the fact that Cruise’s sense of humor aided the fact that his character had to relive the day. There are times when Cruise as Cage works extremely hard to save people in his unit and it’s laughable when he fails after working so hard to learn from his previous days. My favorite moment of the film involves Cage unsuccessfully rolling under a truck to escape the group of infantry men and women he’s stationed with.
Another rewarding aspect of the humor in this movie comes from the fact that one of the running jokes that evolves throughout the film is “I’ve lived this moment before.” What becomes increasingly shocking as the film progresses is when he is having a totally new moment and experiencing something for the first time.
The effects in this film show how much ambiguity can heighten our fear of something. The aliens do not have a face of any kind until the film’s final act. This deliberate not to show physical characteristics of the creatures heightened my fear of what the creatures are capable of. The physicality of them reminds me of the creatures from War of the Worlds combined with organisms that look like an ink blot test. While not menacing initially, they certainly know how to cause damage and end the lives of many human beings.
Doug Liman was smart in that most of his camerawork involves following the action as it unfolds rather forcing his camera to imitate the action taking place. Because the camera is tracking the action rather than creating it we not only see all of the fighting the fighting going on but the emotions on the face of the soldiers as they are fighting the enemy. It’s great to finally have a film where you get the full perspective of the battle that is taking place.
The biggest risk this film took with having a Groundhog Day element was that reliving the day would become repetitive and boring. Thanks to the humor provided by Cruise and the great chemistry he had Blunt, this film entirely surpasses my expectations and makes director Doug Liman a filmmaker to watch once again.