Edge of Tomorrow ★★★★

If I have a film on my radar prior to its release, the critical reception and early viewer reactions to it would never deter me from seeing it and forming my own opinion. When I was younger, I would go pick up a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times and read every word of each Roger Ebert review, his opinion being one I trusted and appreciated but I would never let it sway me one way or the other. Now such a concept seems absurd, turning to a newspaper for a single critical voice when the seemingly unlimited wealth of information and reactions are constantly at our fingertips. For obvious reasons the capabilities of our modern world are a blessing, but its hard to not sometimes consider it a curse as well, with people tracking every movement of a Rottentomatoes score rather than simply heading to the cinema, absorbing the work and drawing their own conclusions.

Of course, every so often a film comes along of which I have little to no interest in, and the only thing that could possibly force me to reconsider my initial pessimism would be a wave of surprisingly strong reviews. Edge of Tomorrow was the first 2014 release to fit this bill, with the various trailers and clips I had seen doing basically nothing to garner my attention and anticipate anything more than a mediocre, forgettable science fiction effort. Perhaps I was still a bit turned off by the 2013 film Oblivion, a work worthy of comparison because of the genre and the fact that Tom Cruise performed as the lead. I didn't hate that film, but my enjoyment mostly came from the appealing visuals and amazing musical score while the concept felt recycled and the screenplay left much to be desired. Edge of Tomorrow is guilty in a similar way in regards to the concept, as you may notice that every single write up invokes the blatant comparison to Groundhog Day, but something about this work felt far more inspired and fresh than Oblivion.

After the nearly universally positive reviews began to pour in for this film, I knew I had to give it a look, and I walked away from it totally surprised by how smart and entertaining it is. Doug Liman may not be a household name director, and his track record doesn't guarantee success, but he has provided me cinematic joy in the past in the form of films like Swingers and The Bourne Identity. Now I can add Edge of Tomorrow to that list, because for the most part it is an absolute blast of a film, one that I never saw coming. Say what you want about Tom Cruise the man, but as a performer he always brings it regardless of the quality of the material. He does his job and he shows a lot of passion for his work, and I admire him for that. This is one of the better Cruise performances in some time, and he is joined on screen by the lovely and amazingly talented Emily Blunt, a duo that did their best to keep me enthralled even during the moments that could have derailed the film in which some convoluted explanations were given in regards to the aliens abilities and them being transferred to others and so on. The only real flaw of some of these dialogue driven sequences was that they occasionally hampered the otherwise smooth as silk pacing of the film, but the ship would quickly get back on course soon after.

When compared to some of the best films released thus far in 2014, Edge of Tomorrow didn't floor me in quite the same fashion, but in terms of expectations versus reality this has to be near the top of the list of pleasant surprises, right there along with The Lego Movie. I entered this experience expecting an uninspired, recycled, 3D cash grab, but its a rather intelligent piece of filmmaking, a work that knows how to kick our asses with action but not so much as to desensitize. I look forward to adding Edge of Tomorrow to my blu ray collection in the future.

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