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Edge of Tomorrow is an action movie Groundhog Day

I wouldn’t blame you if you were planning to pass on Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise seems to be a hard sell in 2014, and Doug Liman has been trading on the success of The Bourne Identity for over a decade now. Maybe Edge of Tomorrow would be more enticing if the name wasn’t so bland — hearts were broken in July of 2013 when Warner Bros. announced they were ditching the greatest action movie title of all time, All You Need Is Kill, for the painfully vanilla Edge of Tomorrow (it was me, the heart that broke was mine). But if you skipped on Edge of Tomorrow, a film that from the outside just looks like Tom Cruise in a mech suit fighting aliens in an action movie Groundhog Day, you’d be missing out. Edge of Tomorrow is exactly that movie, and it’s fantastic.

Taking place in the familiar post-alien invasion setting of the not-too-distant future (paging Pacific Rim), Edge of Tomorrow has two twists — time travel and mechs. Major William Cage (Cruise) is a public relations specialist in the United States military with little to no combat training, who ends up in in the battlefield with the ability to relive the same day over and over after a series of events that are complicated at best and stupid at worst. With the help of Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a war hero who shared the same experience as Cage, the two set out to use Cage’s ability to claim victory over their enemy.

I wasn’t kidding before — there’s so much Groundhog Day in Edge of Tomorrow the poster might as well feature Tom Cruise trapped inside some sort of mech alarm clock. Like all great art, it picks out the best parts of that which came before it, casting them in a new light to create something new. Director Doug Liman and editors James Herbert and Laura Jennings must have studied Harold Ramis’ masterpiece, and were able to transfer every perfect beat from Punxsutawney to the battlefield. Cage takes a step to the left and is subsequently crushed by falling debris — a quick cut to just a moment earlier as he pauses, takes a step to the right, and keeps moving forward. The momentum never lets up, but still allows itself to veer off into comedic territory, maintaining that perfect balance between the two.

While the editing is a show stealer, Edge of Tomorrow is still a Tom Cruise vehicle, and our man does not disappoint. The resetting timeline concept allows Cruise to act within the full spectrum of Tom Cruise — Cage is able at different times to be quiet Tom, serious Tom, angry Tom, action Tom, charming Tom, and, of course, running Tom. His co-star, Blunt, is a perfect foil for Cruise, and the two play off each other perfectly.

There’s still dead weight in Edge of Tomorrow. The work put in to get Cruise out from behind a desk and onto the battlefield early on is tedious and borderline nonsensical — if you caught this one on TV in the first fifteen minutes you’d likely change the channel. The entire supporting cast, outside of Bill Paxton and Noah Taylor (speaking with his Aussie accent!), are wooden, one-dimensional, and antagonistic to a fault, and the film neuters itself in its final act in a misguided attempt to heighten the stakes. There’s enough here to sink a lesser film, but Edge of Tomorrow is able to avoid such a fate by developing and executing its core concept so well, around two leads firing on all cylinders. Edge of Tomorrow is the sleeper action sci-fi hit of the year — if only they had done something about the name.

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