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Point/Counterpoint Review: 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt And Bill Paxton

by The Playlist Staff
May 22, 2014 5:00 PM
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Masks have always fascinated Tom Cruise. There are masks in "Minority Report," "Eyes Wide Shut," and "Vanilla Sky," and they serve a key purpose in all four "Mission: Impossible" movies (movies, it just so happens, that Cruise also produces). In films like "Interview with the Vampire," "Valkyrie" and "Tropic Thunder," Cruise transforms himself physically with the help of advanced prosthetics, to the point that these augmented bits become a part of him; he is the mask. It's very apparent that Tom Cruise is obsessed with the idea of being anyone but Tom Cruise. This idea reaches its logical zenith in his latest movie, the brilliant sci-fi extravaganza "Edge of Tomorrow," in which Cruise plays a man who dies on the battlefield and is instantly reborn. Every day, Cruise could be someone else. The fact that he chooses to be himself is what's really impressive.

Tellingly, Cruise's character Major William Cage is introduced as a spin doctor, a military man in name only who, before Earth became engaged in combat with a bloodthirsty alien race, was a marketing executive. His main goal is to package the war and sell it to the citizenry, but when he runs afoul of a European commander (Brendan Gleeson), he's labeled a deserter and forced into combat even when, he readily admits, he can barely handle the trauma of a paper cut. Even before battle, he's been transformed. On his inaugural mission, which echoes the D-Day beach invasion, his squad is slaughtered and, while attempting to kill one of the monsters (a deadly swirl of teeth and tentacles conjured up by the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic), he ingests some of its blood. This gives him the nifty, "Groundhog Day"-like ability to "reset" the day every time he dies.   

Once he foggily realizes what is happening to him, Cage seeks out Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a warrior who had some success during one of these battles and, for a spell, had similar abilities. She teaches him how to use his gift, and together they plot a way to end the invasion, once and for all.

It's hard to talk about "Edge of Tomorrow" without accidentally giving something away, so if you're squeamish about spoilers, feel free to turn back now (just be sure to return after you've seen the movie). Before you go, you should know that the movie is great. Like really, really great. It's snappy and funny and violent and weird and sets the bar impossibly high for the rest of this year's summer movie crop.

Based on a Japanese "light novel" called "All You Need Is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, "Edge of Tomorrow" uncannily brings together a bunch of different influences, from old school video games (reset!) to Japanese anime (the character wear hulking, robotic suits in battle) to the science fiction films of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (early scenes have a typically satirical vibe and the battle scenes feel very "Starship Troopers") while also feeling totally fresh and original. It's weird to think of a movie that had this much money put behind its marketing and distribution as a surprise, but it really is; a very welcome surprise.

Part of what makes the movie so thrilling is its formal experimentalism, gleefully exhibited inside the parameters of a $200 million studio film. The movie was directed by Doug Liman, who made independent fare like "Swingers" before earning his living as a craftsman behind some of Hollywood's biggest action films (like "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "Jumper"), and in a way "Edge of Tomorrow" feels much closer in spirit to his tiny indie "Go" than something like "The Bourne Identity." It has the same freewheeling energy as "Go," as well as the emphasis on being unmoored from typical narrative convention. In "Edge of Tomorrow," the same events happen again and again, but Liman is able, somehow, to show us different things each time. It's like if "Rashomon" featured a bunch of men in robotic suits and giant scary monsters and Bill Paxton as a hard-nosed general (he's great, by the way).

What's even more impressive than Liman's novel approach to the execution of the narrative is that he's able to give Cruise's plight actual emotional weight, utilizing a minimal amount of dialogue. Interestingly enough this is accomplished mostly through the editing of the movie, as you watch Cruise start to understand Emily Blunt's character fully. She is first portrayed, both by her performance and the marketing surrounding her victory, as a fierce warrior. But as time goes on and Cruise continues to work with her through the restarting of the day, he notices that she has layers and, what's more, that he is starting to fall for her. She is a rich, beautifully realized female character, strong and smart and sensitive, which is already a welcome change from the summer movies we've seen thus far, where women are mostly seen falling from tall buildings and hiding from giant monsters. Blunt doesn't hide from monsters: she's sticks a really big fucking sword through them.

But the movie belongs, wholeheartedly, to Cruise. This is his liveliest, most fully engaged, dimensional performance in years, and considering the entire movie hinges on the audience identifying with his character as he goes through this patently unreal experience, that's a very good thing. Cruise starts off superficial and scared, a man unwilling to enter combat because of his lack of self-confidence and physical ability. By being able to replay the day, though, he becomes stronger, faster, and is able to anticipate what is going to happen next. He also starts to feel more. As an actor you sense Cruise letting go of some of the unnecessary artifice that has hindered recent performances like "Rock of Ages." He is letting go of the mask and becoming more human, and because of all this it's a performance that winds up being close to transcendent. Tom Cruise is back. Big time.

And it's weird to think of a $200 million sci-fi spectacle like "Edge of Tomorrow" flying below the radar, but with all the hype and hoopla about this summer's superhero movies and animated sequels, that's exactly what's happened. It shouldn't. "Edge of Tomorrow" is a witty, trippy, emotionally engaging, impressively strange movie, beautifully staged and photographed (by Dione Beebe). Most importantly though, is that "Edge of Tomorrow" is an outrageously fun thriller that sees the biggest actor of our age come back to vibrant life in a film that allows him to lose the mask and remind us all why he was a movie star in the first place. It's a razzle-dazzle triumph, and one we can't wait to experience again and again and again... [A-] – Drew Taylor. 

On page 2, a totally different take on the movie by Gabe Toro

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  • steprock | June 19, 2014 12:20 PMReply

    I found this film to be insightful, interesting, and exciting. If you want more than that, read a book.

    As for the assertion that Blunt's character is somehow shoved into the background, it's absurd! In stark contrast to the review, she does, in fact, figure out she's being played and pushes back. She takes the reins back when she gets shoved into the background.

    I, for one, found the changing pace of the film to be even more engaging. They didn't stick with running and gunning, but found some real depth and heart by the middle point. I didn't mind in the least that it ended with mono e mono faceoff. What else do you expect in an action movie? I paid good money to see stuff blow up and this delivers. The fact that it includes intelligence and an interesting plot made my week.

  • Segolene | June 9, 2014 2:29 PMReply

    It's become popular to bash Tom Cruise. You know, someone who has been a major movie star for 30 years, he ain't worth shit. Gosh, we love to bash successful people. You know how hard it is to remain on the top of the Hollywood pile for so long?

    People did the same thing to Clint Eastwood. "He's over, he's over!" they all shouted, then Pale Rider, Unforgiven, etc.

    I saw this movie last night and I'm going to see it again. Great performances by Cruise, actual BLACK people in it doing normal things and even in positions of power over Cruise's character, and a really wonderful woman character in the center of it.

    Bitch all you want about his personal life, but TC is back with this one, haters.

  • Max | June 6, 2014 10:11 AMReply

    Looks somebody wants attentions...

  • Fernando | June 6, 2014 9:27 AMReply


    "and Bill Paxton as a hard-nosed general (he's great, by the way)."

    No... he is a Master Sergeant

  • pedant | June 6, 2014 9:31 AM

    Lord, pedantic comments like this are the F8ckin worst

  • Jamie | June 3, 2014 3:53 PMReply

    I've been holding off seeing this film and will probably wait for it to come out on cable. This is for one simple reason: I really dislike the acting style (if you want to call it acting) of Tom Cruise. I realize this is totally prejudicial, but even with what are considered his best movies or ones that I have liked, I've liked in spite of him not because of him and this one just feels like more of the ho hum same.

  • SP | June 6, 2014 11:33 PM

    I think you get to be prejudicial with your money, and who and what you will see in the theatres. I will never willing pay to see a Tom Cruise movie, period. I think he is an ass, and a one-trick pony as an actor. Is that prejudicial? May. Be.

  • harry | June 3, 2014 3:16 PMReply

    Gabe you fkta***rd... You are the new Armond White. You are still upset over your disappointing film career. Its been years. Get over it.

  • Travis | June 3, 2014 12:16 PMReply

    Great reviews both, but on Gabe's side it's interesting that he thinks the film looks down on Cage for "not wanting to fight". No, he's looked down on because he tried to lie and blackmail his way out of fighting.

  • Zinjo | May 28, 2014 3:28 PMReply

    Interesting takes for both reviews. I am not sure what Gabe was so caustic about though... Maybe he was one of the many who gushed over LOTR when I found it rather bland, but interesting having never read the books. I was amused when Gage went off on how the co-star (supporting character) was not given equal screen time as the star (protagonist). If Vrataski were the man character he'd have a point, but she isn't. Any further character development outside of the main narrative would be discarded as it should in any story.

  • Stephen Jay | May 23, 2014 8:43 AMReply

    Saw an early screening of this, and I find myself between Drew and Gabe. Somewhere around C or C+. It had its entertaining moments, but the last act was dull and predictable.

  • Emperor Zerg Rush | May 23, 2014 4:04 AMReply

    Hollywood's kick on trying to make Bill Paxton happen again is already getting stale.

  • Kurskij | May 30, 2014 4:56 PM

    It's not so much about making Paxton happen again, but rather about having only one Neeson and one Costner (who both cost too much for various reasons).

  • cirkusfolk | May 23, 2014 2:57 AMReply

    I find it hard to believe such a varying difference exists over whether this film is good or not. After reading both reviews, I'm inclined to suspect the negative one had more of an issue with his perception of the film and the possible subtext. I just want it to be a cool and exciting movie. It's easily my most anticipated movie coming out this summer and even though I am pretty sure it will bomb box office wise, I'm hoping we at least have a good movie to enjoy.

  • 911 | May 23, 2014 6:57 AM

    You're absolutely right. 2 people can't never have different thoughts about anything, call the police!!!

    " I just want it to be a cool and exciting movie." Such a high premium you put on movies, how exciting indeed!

  • Caleb | May 23, 2014 1:00 AMReply

    I knew you guys wouldn't have the balls to run an A- review of a contemporary Tom Cruise action movie.

  • Harry | May 23, 2014 12:45 AMReply

    Gabe's a r*tard. So didn't even bother to read his review. I'm sure Gabe has some scandalous info about The Playlist senior staff and he blackmails them to keep his job. Otherwise how can a talent less hack (more contrariant than Armond White) can write on a blog like this?

  • Kurskij | May 30, 2014 5:02 PM

    White is quite a brilliant writer (and a brilliant troll. Forgive me not - a James Joyce of modern film critics).

    While Gabe, while (whilewhile) not (yet or at all) a brilliant writer, wrote a solid and honest review.

    Also, yeah, you are allowed to write "retard". Use the power, H.

  • Gabe Toro | May 23, 2014 1:14 AM

    You're allowed to say "retard."

  • hank | May 22, 2014 9:48 PMReply

    did anyone expect Gabe Toro to like this? He hated it before he even saw the trailer.

  • Bryan | May 25, 2014 6:40 AM

    You love Cruise but love to hate his action films?

  • Gabe Toro | May 23, 2014 12:46 AM

    Poppycock. I LOVE TOM CRUISE.

  • Marko | May 22, 2014 9:41 PMReply

    Haha! I totally predicted that there was going to be a gushingly positive review from Drew Taylor and then a really negative one from someone else on staff.

  • Joao | May 22, 2014 8:15 PMReply

    I'm going with the positive one. I really want this to be a critical and financial success!

  • dave | May 22, 2014 6:22 PMReply

    I believe the your "Point" is the real review and i will take that way.

  • Tom | May 22, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    surely this is the same as 'Source Code' ?

  • obri | May 23, 2014 6:23 AM

    not really i have read the novel, and the story is not really resetting time it's about their relationship in that small span of time and the fact that he needs to remind her of everything every time they reset.

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