The last time director Doug Liman presented us with a blockbuster, it was in the form of 2008’s Jumper, a failed franchise kick-starter that remains as bad as everyone says it is. But he is a director one should never take for granted. Above anything, he has proven himself to be a director of great versatility, moving smoothly from the shoe-string indie Swingers to the more action-packed, big-budgeted affairs like The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Thankfully, Edge of Tomorrow marks a welcome return for Liman to blockbuster filmmaking, with a light touch and visual flair that marks this particular Tom Cruise-actioner as one of the summer’s best.

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Set in the near future, Edge of Tomorrowconcerns mankind’s battle against an alien race known as Mimics. With the alien hordes being held at the English Channel, a battle on the beaches of Normandy is set with the intention of pushing back the alien forces, hopefully taking them by surprise. General Bingham (Brendan Gleeson) wants to use the battle as a piece of publicity, leading him to assign P.R. Officer Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) to observe on the battlefield. After the cowardly Cage attempts to blackmail the General, he finds himself stripped of his rank and sent on the frontline. Cage’s life takes an even stranger turn when he inherits the Mimics power to reset the day after dying. With Cage now possessing a tactical advantage, he teams up with skilled soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who also once possessed the power. Together, they aim to find a find to defeat the Mimics once and for all at a moment when all hope seems lost.

The central premise of Edge of Tomorrow can be boiled down to a sci-fi tinged Groundhog Day. And while it certainly wears this comparison on its sleeve, the way in which it portrays its concept within its environment allows the idea to feel fresh, inventive, and most importantly, fun. Liman effectively builds up to the moment when Cage possesses the power to re-live every day after dying. The script, his game A-list star, and his own visual grit power the film in moments of emotion, thrilling action, and visual gags which take a certain glee in finding ways to kill Tom Cruise. It smartly negotiates its concept by allowing the character of Cage to become more competent in a believable fashion, becoming a highly efficient killing machine under the teachings of Rita, the ‘Full Metal Bitch’, as well as developing a deeper connection to her, one that he has to re-build every single day.

The warfare presented here, which requires the human forces to wear weaponized mech-suits, provides the film with a steam-punk vibe, while the design of the Mimics proves to be well-realised, vicious, and visually exciting. The combat itself is one that evokes skirmishes of the Saving Private Ryan variety (being set on the Beaches of Normandy) but re-brands that style with sci-fi bombast and the kineticism we have come to expect from action pictures in this blockbuster climate.

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Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the combat is that all of the action takes place in European locations, rather than New York, or any other generic U.S. city which is used as the battleground for the fate of humanity. The European locations present the film with another unique element, and also prove very fitting as we commemorate the 70thAnniversary of the D-Day landings.

For those of you who are of the mind-set to write-off Edge of Tomorrow due to the fact that it is a Tom Cruise movie, then I have one thing to say; shame on you. Cruise has always been a dependable leading man, no matter what you may make of his personal life, and EofT proves to be one of his strongest action movies to date. It is not only in the design and execution of the film, it is in Cruise himself. His character, Cage, is a snivelling coward who must earn our sympathy. Cruise manages to earn this by giving Cage a nervous, inept sensibility, which even manages to stay once he becomes a more capable soldier. It is a carefully measured performance, presenting the frustration and bewilderment we’d expect an individual to exhibit in this kind of situation.

Equally impressive, both in physicality and performance, is Emily Blunt as Rita. The ‘Full Metal Bitch’ is one of the most kick-ass female characters of recent memory. Blunt has the capability to strike chemistry with any of her co-stars, but to see her leading the way in terms of the action stakes is incredibly refreshing.

While I do doubt that the ending of Edge of Tomorrow is the best any of the writers could have come up with,EofT proves to be a Hollywood blockbuster that feels distinctly unique amongst this summer’s studio offerings. It is tightly paced, thrilling, funny, engaging, and a hell of a lot of fun; easily the best movie of the summer so far.

4/5- A summer blockbuster with brains and fun to match its brawn; EofT will most definitely stand as one of the most refreshing surprises of 2014.

Originally Published at The Boar: http://theboar.org/2014/06/19/edge-tomorrow/#.U7aDxY1dXCc

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