Edge of Tomorrow ★★★★½

The Box Office Bashing Season: 2003 to 2014

Hudson got a promotion!

Maybe I should have just made this a Tom Cruise season. After all, many of the best films I've seen so far have been Cruise films and the odds are that Collateral and Oblivion, which I still have to come, will just continue that run. It's also entirely possible that Edge Of Tomorrow is the best film I've seen in this project so far, beating out another Cruise film, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

I don't think this is a coincidence and believe me, if I am a Cruise fanboy then it has only been a recent conversion or revelation. But there is something about him in a big budget action, adventure or sci-fi film that just lends a polish, class and even authenticity to the whole film that it might not even have deserved before he turns up and puts his stamp on it.

His adaptability as a star really is key to how Edge Of Tomorrow works so well at the outset. Perpetually cast as an all-American hero, save for the odd journey off the beaten track, here he's initially cast as something different. He's a smarmy, arrogant prat who is then revealed to be a borderline coward and thick twat. The way he is ordered into action by Brendan Gleeson at the start of the film reminded me of General Melchett ordering Captain Darling out for the big push in the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.

Then, of course, as the story goes on his turn in character is revealed. No surprises there but it does mean that Edge Of Tomorrow has something different going for it outside of its time-looping storyline. And even when that part of the storyline is revealed, it's done so with a much different take on the 'some scientist's fucked up the space-time continuum with his dodgy experiments' idea that most of these films use.

In fact, Edge Of Tomorrow really is just a fascinating melding of really good and new ideas and lots of unashamed homage. Bill Paxton himself (who is predictably terrific) commented that he probably only got cast in this off the back of his Aliens performance, and there are a lot of similarities with Aliens at the outset, that's for sure. All very welcome considering the quality of that film.

Yet the aliens themselves are a whirling mass of arms and legs (I think!) that the film rightly doesn't obsess over the design of and, pleasingly, doesn't even reveal until Cruise's first shot at trying to beat them all. They're unleashed on an unwitting audience as much as they are on the troops put up against them. Also, the film doesn't equally obsess over these new-fangled suits that the troops are equipped with to combat them.

Instead, director Doug Liman gives the audience enough of these more crowd-pleasing elements to give himself room to explore the actual plot in some detail, making this a rare blockbuster that can stick together its brainier elements with its brawnier ones. You can perhaps see why Edge Of Tomorrow was, ridiculously in my book, seen to be a box office disappointment. It has its cake and eats it.

It also has a splendid sense of humour. Paxton's reaction to Cruise, in his eyes, inexplicably rolling under the wheels of a truck is hilarious, as is Gleeson's dismissive treatment of Cruise at the beginning. The treatment of the constant deaths as humorous for the most part is a really different blackly comic touch as well that owes more to Groundhog Day than it does to the likes of Triangle or Retroactive, but it works much better as a result. This film can't pore over each visit down the timeline or it would be about 14 hours long but its treatment over those visits is splendidly done.

In the middle of the predicted excellence of Cruise, Gleeson and Paxton is Emily Blunt in the kind of female action film role that we've seen rarely since, well, Aliens. The influence of Ripley looms large over her (a good tagline might have been under a picture of her in her combat suit reading "Get Away From The Full Metal Bitch!") both in character and performance. Always an enchanting performer, she also adds utterly convincing toughness to her oeuvre here and is quite sensational.

You know, I've said this before the last couple of months but I'll say it again - how about her own film? A prequel to this detailing Rita Vrataski's previous battles would be not only welcome but positively demanded considering the sparing details we are fed here. There are so many opportunities out there for willing women to be heading franchises or films that seem to be an open goal to me, so when are filmmakers and studios going to start seeing what seems to be glaringly obvious to many of us?

Rant aside, she, and Charlotte Riley doing a sparkling Deep South impression of Vasquez, enlighten a film that was doing well enough as it was before they came along. I don't think anyone could reasonably have asked Edge Of Tomorrow to be funnier, smarter, more exciting, more action packed or just nearly as good as it is. I know I couldn't.

Steve G liked these reviews