Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

(On Cable TV, February 2015) As a director, Doug Liman’s been hit-and-miss, but Edge of Tomorrow is a definite hit.  You could crudely summarize the film as “sci-fi Groundhog Day” (even though it’s adapted from a Japanese Science-Fiction novel) and grind your teeth at the dumb setup in which humans are somehow stuck fighting aliens in a European ground war.  But once the mechanics of the time-loop premise are laid out and the complications begin piling up for our protagonist, Edge of Tomorrow gains a strong forward narrative drive.  Tom Cruise is pretty good as a back-room officer thrust into bloody combat, especially when he has to relive the same events over and over again until he gets it right.  You can dig a bit into the film and come away with strong commentary on video-game playing and the consequences of choice, but it’s just as easy to be swept along by the fast-paced action and dark humor.  Emily Blunt has a terrific role as a battle-hardened veteran, and she sells it perfectly. (Although I would have liked an older female actress in the role, just to lower the age difference between her and Cruise) Edge of Tomorrow definitely hits its stride in its middle third as time-loop possibilities are ingeniously exploited, and the film’s editing is taught-tight.  It’s a bit unfortunate that the film’s third act seems so flaccid after such high notes: The night-time Paris sequence seem suddenly interminable and visually bleak, although I’m sucker enough for a happy ending that I won’t begrudge the sudden changes in the film’s rules in time for the coda.  Edge of Tomorrow is just different and playful enough to distinguish itself from other run-of-the-mill SF action films, although it’s flawed enough to make anyone wish for a few further tweaks.  Still: Not bad at all.

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