Edge of Tomorrow
The reincarnative powers acquired by Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow have their limits - after death, he is always reborn on the same day, in the same place, surrounded by the same oblivious galoots, forced over and over to make it past the same obstacles in order to do whatever it is the movie never really gets around to explaining he's supposed to do. Save the world, yeah, but the specifics are muddled beyond that. We get the feeling, though, that if Cruise himself could choose his point of rebirth, it'd be smack dab back in the middle of the '80s. And we're right along with him. Because one of Edge of Tomorrow's great victories is its ability to remind us of the Cruise we fell in love with way back when. The Cruise that could get away with being funny, kooky, smarmy, and kind of a douchebag. In this latest outing, that's exactly what he's going for.
Edge of Tomorrow is more than happy to return to the Cruise we met and loved in the era of Risky Business and Top Gun, accessing the sort of colossal camp that he, as a good-looking charmer, could sell as high grade entertainment. Well before Rain Man established him as an actor of true merit and the decade to follow slowly expelled him of this very reputation. As soldier-in-name-only William Cage, Cruise masters the art of playing too big for his britches. His swagger is unfounded, his double talk ineffective. Finally, that Tom Cruise smile (you know the one) is used for its rightful purpose: to highlight just how much of a cocky son of a bitch this guy can be. But this version of Cruise might stumble to a point of utter detestability if Edge of Tomorrow wasn't so eager to laugh at the classic Hollywood-caliber blowhard he puts on display.
The film's sense of humor and personability are what cart us through the science fiction premise with such grace: Cage is thrust into his first go at warfare against a race of malicious alien invaders, taunted and ostracized by his disapproving fellow grunts, killed almost instantly in the field of battle, and then reborn moments later (make that a day and a half earlier) right back at the military base where this whole mixup began. Never mind why - the movie does its share of explaining the science fiction behind Cruise's character's newfound abilities... with no dearth of logic holes, but you shouldn't get too strung up on that either - or even the specifics of the ultimate mission that he and a soldier sympathetic to his cause (Emily Blunt, who is sharp enough as an impatient war hero) adopt in order to save the human race from their extraterrestrial assailants. The only element to really strap into here is the fun: Cage struggling with the confusion, terror, monotony, psychological trauma, existential quandaries, and humors of living the same few days and scenes over and over and over, with the added bonus of an alien war comprising the backdrop to keep things quirky.
When the novelty of both the idea and all the plausible avenues of exploring it wear away, we're left with a far less riveting third act... not one entirely devoid of life, though one notably lacking in the spark and color that ignited Cruise's initial forays into this strange set of circumstances. The movie trades its earlier brand of innovation for the tropes of your standard action/sci-fi, though never entirely devolves all the way down to standard summer fare. In the end, Edge of Tomorrow doesn't wind up proving itself to be as tremendous a leap from the norm of today, but it's at least a few big steps. And that's largely because it seems to know what we've all been forgetting since 1985: science fiction can be funny, blockbusters can be kooky, and Tom Cruise can, and should, be a jackass.