Much like Singer’s recent return to the X-Men franchise, Tom Cruise’s latest big screen spectacular overtly borrows concepts from a variety of other influences in order to give us something new. Based on Hiro Sakurazaka’s more tantalizingly-named novel All You Need is Kill, the film wears its influences on its sleeve as a cross between Groundhog Day, Saving Private Ryan and Starship Troopers, but all to worthwhile effect. In an age where we have to make do with the latest pointless ‘re-boots’ such as Robocop and a rumoured new Lethal Weapon to satisfy our blockbuster yearnings, it’s more gratifying to see familiar plots re-invented into new scenarios with new characters.
In a near future where a vicious and seemingly unbeatable alien foe has all but consumed our planet and wiped out most of the population, the film opens with Cruise’s staple cock-sure lead Cage, a smooth-talking military General drumming up recruits for the final big face off with the enemy. In a nice twist on the persona we’ve seen endlessly since Top Gun, the masterful Brendan Gleeson’s superior officer sends Cage to the front lines of the battle where our hero gets cold feet and attempts to desert. His arrest and demotion to Private gives the film many humorous moments and for anyone jaded by Cruise’s star persona over the years this will help them empathize with him again given his character’s dire situation. We see his first day at the barracks (a militarized Heathrow airport) and horrific landing on the beaches of northern France (a timely echo of the Normandy landings) in memorable detail. Like Groundhog Day, the effective structuring of this sequence is a vital element as he then re-lives the same day over and again, attempting to change things from what he has learnt from the previous run-through of events to try and create a more successful outcome.
We are in familiar territory here and once the set-up has been established the devil is in the details to hold the audience’s interest. Here the Swingers and Bourne Identity director Doug Liman is served well by an impressive cast. Gleeson is a joy in roles such as this, cantankerous and cynical but with a will to win the day, Emily Blunt in incredible physical shape as war hero Rita gives the film some needed heart, Shine’s Noah Taylor is quirky as the tech wizard and the mighty Bill Paxton has a welcome return to form as Cage’s Southern gentleman platoon sergeant Farell; a role designed to be a constant throughout that works as a great foil to Cage. Liman also benefits from assigning UK effects company Framestore to conceive of and animate the menacing aliens, who here give us something fresh and unfamiliar; squid-like metallic beings with tentacles that emerge from underground like stealth versions of the bugs in Tremors.
Once the plot is in motion the film hits formulaic mode and the originality it has achieved until this point gives way to a typical race to defeat the bad guys. But this isn’t a film about defying expectation; it’s about serving up a big slice of gratifying sci fi action entertainment and on this level it more than delivers.
Plus, in this one it’s fun to see Tom Cruise quibble with the locals of an English pub then down a pint of mild before heading out to save the world.
Edge of Tomorrrow is out now in UK cinemas
Words> Roy Swansborough