Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Masayoshi Haneda, Terence Maynard, Noah Taylor, Lara Pulver, Madeleine Mantock
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, based on a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Directed by: Doug Liman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material
Running Time: 113
Date: 06/06/2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Loop Dreams

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow is a rare science fiction movie that effectively combines a brainy, science-y idea, and some slam-bang summer popcorn action. More frequently we get big brain-dead explosion movies that are merely set in outer space or in the future, or, on the other side of the coin, small, brilliant, hard-sell films like this year's Under the Skin.

Perhaps it's no surprise that both Mr. Cruise (Minority Report) and Ms. Blunt (Looper) are veterans of this happy hybrid. Edge of Tomorrow completes a great triple feature. In it, aliens have attacked the Earth, using time travel to understand exactly when, where, and how battles will play out.

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a craven public relations guy with no combat experience, is sent into battle on a French beachfront. It's a slaughter.

Cage unexpectedly wakes up a day earlier, before the battle begins. He's stuck in a time loop, much like the one in Groundhog Day, and enters the fray again and again.

Another soldier, Rita Vrataski (Blunt), a hero from a previous battle, sees Cage beginning to anticipate the aliens' moves and understands what's going on. The same thing happened to her, and was the secret of her great victory. Unlike so many other male-oriented movies of this type, Blunt has an equal role here, every bit as strong and as interesting as Cruise's.

Together they use Cage's power of trial-and-error to try and stop the battle from its source, before it ever begins. The catch is that Cage must actually die in order to re-set each day.

This scenario comes from a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and is brought to the screen by Oscar-winning writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), playwright Jez Butterworth, and his brother John-Henry. Armchair scientists will likely find holes in the chronology, but the presentation is designed to march on, regardless.

The man in charge, director Doug Liman, is a solid, sturdy workhorse capable of assembling clean, smart, brisk entertainments like Swingers and The Bourne Identity, with no camera-shaking or fuss. Though it includes plenty of action, scenes of military bravado are played for irony, given that we already know the outcome of the "glorious" battle.

Emphasis is on the playful, funny character-related troubles of time travel, such as Cage introducing himself to the cranky Vrataski every day, or trying to protect her from her own bull-headed courage. Indeed, in a summer season filled with its own time loops (i.e. sequels, reboots, etc.), Edge of Tomorrow beats the clock.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray edition features exceptional picture and sound, as high-quality as one might expect in 2014. It features three short featurettes, one longer one on director Liman, and deleted scenes. There are optional audio tracks and subtitles in several languages. But even without a plethora of extras, I hope people discover this very fine summer entertainment that, despite good reviews, didn't do as well as it could have. Only complaint: the movie's tagline, "Live. Die. Repeat." is somehow much larger than the actual title. Will people even know what this movie is?

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