It is a strange time to look at a film that earned hundreds of millions at the box-office and wonder: what went wrong? But that’s the prevailing question for Edge of Tomorrow. It’s the second of the one-two punch of Tom Cruise science fiction films on the ’10s (the first being Oblivion) that didn’t quite make the financial grade. Oblivion isn’t talked about much anymore, though that might change because its director, Joseph Kosinski, helmed the recent mega-hit, Top Gun: Maverick.
Edge of Tomorrow was made by Doug Liman, who began with the indie sensation Swingers (one of my favorite films.) He then hit the big-time with the Bourne Identity films. Those were hits, but his subsequent box-office success was spotty, and Edge of Tomorrow didn’t bare the dividends he might have hoped.
Since then, it has become one of those films, like Dredd (2012) that the geek community have seemingly regretted not supporting at the box office. Films that didn’t have the Marvel gloss, and that would live or die by their premise alone.
And Edge of Tomorrow (which has been semi-officially renamed to Live. Die. Repeat.) has a fantastic premise. Aliens have invaded the Earth. Europe has been summarily bested in every battle… except an apparently lucky strike at Verdun, France, where a single soldier, Rita (Emily Blunt), called The Angel of Verdun, held the line wearing new power armor.
It’s a great story, and Major Cage, a P.R. officer, flogs it for all it’s worth. He says the power armor is such a game changer that a soldier on their first day can use it to change the tide. The army brass takes him at his word… and sends him to the front.
This doesn’t sit well with Cage, a natural coward, who does everything he can to get out of his new charge. Which ends with him in chains and sent to the front. There he’s nearly immediately killed by the enemy. Nearly, except he gets in a lucky shot on a bigger than usual alien. Then dies screaming covered in its blood…
Only to wake up again, reliving the day before. Eventually he learns the science fiction reason for it – the aliens have a limited control over space and time. This is why they’ve been so successful conquering Europe. But now Cage is stuck in their time loop. He relives the battlefield over and over again, and sees the futility of resistance against the enemy.
Except he rescues the Angel of Verdun, and before she dies, she tells him to talk to her tomorrow.
She went through the same thing. That’s a hell of a sf premise, and for much of its run Edge of Tomorrow milks that great premise for what it’s worth. And it works because Cruise’s character, Cage, starts as a despicable, cowardly weasel. He becomes a real warrior not because of a science fiction contrivance, but because of what he’s put through: the arduous grind of combat. He becomes good because, day in and day out, he has to fight. It’s a really great premise.
It’s not, ultimately, a really great movie. It threatens to be, as Cage and the Angel eventually leave the beach invasion (which echoes the Omaha beach landing) and make it further into France. They have some time alone together for character development, to see how the war has cost both of them, since they’ve spent so much more time fighting than anyone else. But those scenes are relatively brief, and the propulsive forward action of the film doesn’t let it develop.
The ultimate climax, where Cage must enlist the help of the soldiers who despise him (having only actually known him for a day, despite him spending untold numbers of days with them) could have had more impact if those characters, too, had more to do.
And I have what I call nerd complaints. I’m a fan of military sci-fi, so several things that are visually interesting in the film annoy me on a practical level. The power armor looks so cumbersome and hard to maneuver in that it’s hard to believe any military would employ it. And I know that for movies, helmets suck because you can’t see actors faces. For real military armor, helmets protect the most vulnerable part of a human. The also give them access to communication which is the single most important thing in organized combat. But this is a movie, they hired Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, so we need to see their faces. Realism be damned. But real power armor would have ear protection and communication. It bothers me. It is not a complaint for normal people.
But normal people might find the last part of the film a little murky and unsatisfying, as I did, where the climax is largely just more shooting and sneaking. It takes place in the Louvre, and except for smashing the Louvre Pyramid takes absolutely no advantage of that location’s beauty.
That’s fine, though. Edge of Tomorrow is a fine movie. The 4K release looks fine. The clarity is exemplary, and occasionally beautiful when the film leaves the beach landing. I found much of the ending kind of murky, though its well rendered murk on this release.
Edge of Tomorrow is a flawed film, certainly. But it’s a fun film, with a neat premise. And for the most part it uses that premise well. Maybe the climactic action sequences are a little generic. Maybe the characters aren’t the deepest, and some opportunities to strengthen them are missed. It’s still an energetic exercise of a great sci-fi premise that deserves a wider audience that it got.
Edge of Tomorrow has been released in 4K UHD and Blu-ray by Warner Brothers. A digital code is included, as well. Extras are all on the included Blu-ray, ported from the previous Blu-ray release. Those include “Storming the Beach” (12 min), which has an introduction by director Doug Liman and a different version of the beach storming; “Weapons of the Future” (8 min), a short featurette about the power armor; “Creatures Not of This World” (6 min), a short featurette about the alien designs; “On the Edge with Doug Liman” (43 min), a more in-depth look at the production, and some deleted scenes (8 min).