From the tagline: Live Die Repeat, and a sneak at the synopsis or a trailer, we know that Tom Cruise’s latest offering is a Groundhog Day with guns. We also see that, just like Oblivion before it, it is set in the world of science fiction. Tom Cruise is the last genuine Hollywood star, in the sense, he believes his name alone can bring box office success, rather than relying on a famous or established franchise. Yet, recent figures show is star, at least in North America, could be fading. Edge of Tomorrow attempts to repeat his former glories.
It is hard to distinguish Cruise’s modern set of films in traditional terms. The movie makers would argue that the global markets play a larger role than yesteryear. That not breaking even at home doesn’t matter when foreign totals smash the production budget. And it seems that outside of North America the Tom Cruise product is still very strong. What makes receipts over personal popularity incomparable across markets is the way different cultures absorb trends. Whether some parts of the world still adore Tom the same, or if they’re more likely to listen to positive reviews from critics, is hard to ascertain.
What we can determine is that Edge of Tomorrow promised an intriguing idea. Why it failed to garner more attention in America is a puzzle to me. Perhaps some were concerned after the lukewarm response to Oblivion (a film I quite liked). Once buckled into the film, after twenty minutes have passed, it’s clear the intriguing idea is being delivered into a top quality film.
It could have been so easy to fall into action film clichés, played it safe or worse still, played it lazy, but Edge of Tomorrow never does this. It feels authentic, like it’s aware and confident of the feel and direction it wishes to take. It harks back to action films from the 80s that set genre defining tones. Sure, it nods its head to things that have passed before; however, it only does this because sometimes those ingredients are required.
Also, make no mistake: it is packed with action scenes. Unlike most modern action flicks these aren’t there as filler. Like Aliens, a benchmark for all shoot-em-up films, the action belongs. It is never there for the sake of it until we get to the next scene with dialogue. Indeed, this story requires the repetition of action scenes, it’s what drives Cruise’s character, Major William Cage, along. The characters do develop, too. And unlike regular modern films in this genre, we are offered subtleties over spoon-fed emotions and progression. Discreet lines pass between Cruise and Emily Blunt’s female lead that never get the spelled-out, typical Hollywood, resolution. We just know it was there.
Certain design aspects pay homage to what has gone before. The combat suit springs to mind. That particular piece of kit also could remind a person of video games, Halo isn’t a million miles away. It’s fitting that a video game gets a mention; they operate on characters “re-spawning” to rejoin the action, not unlike this movie. Also, the author admitted to using video games as an inspiration as he completed the story.
Don’t allow this comparison to fool you or degrade the vision of the movie, it’s not a simple run-through of a film. Okay, it’s not complex either; it just has that correct feel. It is solid storytelling combined with valid action, as opposed to over the top CGI and words that mean nothing.
While it is easy to criticise Tom Cruise for chasing a legacy as the leading superstar over deep, challenging roles (Born on the Fourth of July was way back in 1989, there were only a few roles with depth in the 90s, nothing since), if he seeks out this sort of popular film his talent isn’t totally wasted.
Could the ending be better? Perhaps? But one feels this film is all about the journey, not the destination. And thankfully for Tom, he’s waking up in a tomorrow where he still can command top billing whilst distancing himself from the slips of recent yesterdays.