First, a warning: this review contains some spoilers, although probably no more than you'd gather from a trailer. If you don't like to know anything before seeing a film, then I'll just say that I recommend this one.
Edge of Tomorrow (also known by the subtitle Live. Die. Repeat.) is set on a near-future Earth which is fighting and losing a war against invading aliens called Mimics; most of Europe has been conquered, except for the British Isles. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise – I know, I know, but don't stop reading!) is an army public relations official with no experience of proper soldiering, let alone combat. He finds himself assigned to the front line of an invasion to retake Europe, launched from England. The invasion runs into an ambush in which the troops are slaughtered; Cage sees a heroine of a previous battle, Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) killed, and dies himself – but not before he kills a Mimic leader (an Alpha).
He then wakes up, back in England at the point in time at which he was assigned to a combat team, and goes through it all again. He learns that he, as with Vrataski before him, has been caught in a temporal loop caused by their blood being mixed with that of an Alpha, and that he will keep on waking up at the same point each time he is killed. What follows is an endless pattern of slow progress and many deaths (mostly implied rather than shown) as Cage and Vrataski learn the hard way how to survive the battle, escape from the battlefield, and track down the Omega, the alien central intelligence which is controlling the invasion.
Nothing very new in this, you might think, and in a sense you'd be right. The film is based on a 2004 Japanese novel, All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. There are obvious echoes here of Groundhog Day, and even more so of Source Code – the 2011 SF drama which is also reviewed on this blog. Despite this, Edge of Tomorrow takes old ingredients and mixes them to make a fresh and enjoyable film.
The Mimics are very good – frighteningly alien and not remotely humanoid – and the drop ships and combat exoskeletons worn by the troops are realistic, in the sense of resembling some of the designs being developed or proposed now. What makes this film so enjoyable is the combination of a very good script (by a succession of writers), tight direction (by Doug Liman), and great acting, especially by the impressively muscled Blunt as the tough and ruthless combat veteran. The end result is a film which is not only intriguing and gripping but is also very funny, with a thread of deadpan dark humour running through it (mostly from Blunt, who keeps a straight face throughout). It even manages to finish on a grin. About the only point I'd question is the logic behind the conclusion, which I'm still trying to get my head around.
Tom Cruise may not be everyone's favourite actor – he isn't mine – but I have to admit that he does this sort of thing very well, and he deserves some credit for picking interesting SF films, Oblivion being another recent example. If you like a blend of SF ideas, taut military action, and humour (as I do), then Edge of Tomorrow is just about perfect. Enjoy!