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‘Edge of Tomorrow’: Terrible Title, but oh, That Tom Cruise

Say what you will about Tom Cruise – God knows there’s a lot to say. He’s a little nuts; he doesn’t believe in anti-depressants; he’s part of a wackadoo religion created by a sci-fi writer; he’s got stubby little legs that makes it hilarious whenever he runs.

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But the man is always 100 percent committed to the work. A phoned-in Tom Cruise performance simply does not exist. It doesn’t matter if the movie he’s agreed to is a silly pop fantasy (“Top Gun”) or completely incomprehensible (“Vanilla Sky”) – he’s agreed to that movie and by God, he’s going to act the crap out of it. There’s a lot of respect at Happy Nice Times for that kind of work ethic.

And that work ethic is on full display in “Edge of Tomorrow,” the hugely entertaining surprise of the summer, a fresh antidote to the near-constant barrage of Marvel tent-poles and “Transformers” sequels. “Edge of Tomorrow” is a summer blockbuster the way Cruise is a movie star: it’s sprawling and loud and fun, with just the right amount of seriousness and a dash of crazy.

We start with the likes of CNN’s Erin Andrews and company reporting a violent infestation of aliens called Mimics. The Mimics have taken over Western and Eastern Europe, and are quickly turning their attentions to Russia, China and the United Kingdom. Cruise is an Army PR flack who, after pissing off a superior officer, is sent to the front during a suicidal invasion attempt. He’s great in these early scenes, all PR-charm and shark smile.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Cruise dies. In fact, he dies a lot, discovering that he has gained the power to reset the day every time he’s killed, waking up the day before the invasion. He meets a war hero who understands what’s happening to him (Emily Blunt), and together they attempt to use his “Groundhog Day” superpowers to save the world.

This is a slightly absurd premise, but both Cruise and director Doug Liman seems comfortable with working with that absurdity. A lot of the movie is played for laughs, from a hilarious Bill Paxton as an overzealous staff sergeant to the myriad and often stupid ways that Cruise gets himself killed. The setting is purposefully supposed to put us in mind of World War II – the movie is plastered with war propaganda posters, soldiers storm the beaches at Normandy, and Brendan Gleesan has a nice little role as a vaguely Churchillian general – and that retro military swagger is dated but also pretty fun to watch.

Equally fun to watch is Emily Blunt, who gets to be a machete-wielding super-soldier nicknamed the Angel of Verdun. That is a truly awesome role for an actress, and she kills it every second she’s on screen. And this is the other thing we happen to like about Tom Cruise: in general, he’s not a camera hog. He lets his co-stars chew scenery right along with him, and this is not exception. Cruise might always be our hero, but it’s Blunt who gets to carry the big damn knife.

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