Cruise lives (and dies and lives and dies) on the ‘Edge’

Staff wirterJune 6, 2014 

Tom Cruise, center, is a solider who has to die repeatedly to save the world from an alien attack in “Edge of Tomorrow.”


“Oblivion.” “Edge of Tomorrow.” What do these two movies have in common?

A. Tom Cruise

B. Science fiction story lines.

C. Titles that tell you next to nothing about what these pictures are about. “Edge of Tomorrow,” which opens Friday (June 6), sounds like the title of a daytime soap.

Here’s one that fits the picture a whole lot better: “A Million Ways To Die in the Future.”

Unlike Seth MacFarlane’s recent misfire, “A Million Ways To Die in the West,” where there isn’t actually a whole lot of dying going on on-screen, death does not take a holiday in “Edge.” In fact it’s working a double shift. With overtime.

And it’s working out on Cruise’s character, an army major in the near future.

Tentacle monsters from outer space are killing Major Tom. A lot.

Squashing him. Flambeing him. Ripping him, presumably, limb from limb, and otherwise massacring him in awful alien ways.

I say “presumably” because director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) and the picture’s creative brain trust decided to make a movie remarkably free of guts and gore considering how violent it is. Must enhance its commercial viability by ensuring that it qualifies for an audience-friendly PG-13 rating. So no gruesome details, thank you very much.

Those monster mashings aren’t the half of Tom’s travails. Between alien expungements, Emily Blunt is shooting his character in the head. Again and again. And again.

Poor guy can’t catch a break.

His character is caught in a highly individualized time warp. Those alien nasties have conquered Europe. Earth’s armies are getting slaughtered. World domination by extraterrestrials appears to be imminent as the invaders are on the brink of breaking containment on the Continent.

Humanity’s only hope is Cruise’s soldier, who dies on the battlefield but then snaps back, alive, to just before the battle’s beginning. And with each snap-back he’s learned a little bit more about what’s in store during the fighting. It has something to do with the ability to mind-meld with the aliens. In the process, he gets some ideas as to how maybe he can change the future and save the world.

Blunt’s character, the fiercest warrior Earth has ever fielded, once possessed, like Cruise, the dubious gift of time travel. She lost it after getting killed a lot herself but now can instruct Cruise’s character how to exploit that gift and win the war. But to expedite the lesson plan she has to kill her student, over and over.

Sound confusing? You bet. As Blunt dives into detailed explanations, you can feel your eyes glazing over. And when the picture ends and you have a chance to think about the details, you realize “Edge” falls into more plot holes than it can climb out of.

But that realization dawns after the lights come up.

While it’s playing, “Edge” really delivers the summer blockbuster goods in its successive, impressive and ultimately repetitious battle scenes. The picture is like a nonstop shooter video game, with exploding aircraft, exploding people and writhing (and exploding) aliens. It’s hardware wars time, with many sequences featuring Cruise and his comrades-in-arms fighting in so-called high-tech mechanized exosuits that enhance a warrior’s combat abilities and come equipped with really cool weaponry.

Welcome, friends, to “Edge of Tomorrow,” where “Groundhog Day” meets D-Day on an endless loop of ka-boom.

Edge of Tomorrow

* * *

Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson.

Running Time: 1:53

Director: Doug Liman

Rating: PG-13; for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.

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