Edge of Tomorrow ★★★★

Channeling the most interesting aspects of time-repetition found in Groundhog Day, the redeeming qualities of sci-fi war in Starship Troopers, the one-man-against-aweseome-force sensibilities of The Matrix, and even the comedic timing of… okay, that’s Groundhog Day again, Edge of Tomorrow isn’t what you think it will be.

Foreknowledge of this film - trailers, posters, hell, even the movie’s title - won’t do this film justice. It’s one of those films that works within the framework of your expectations, but chews it around enough to spit out something entirely new. Something that tastes maybe like spearmint: fresh.

It’s got an interesting cast that feels like a melting pot of different acting sensibilities, from an over-the-top Paxton to a typically-reserved Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, with Brendan Gleeson, and Noah Taylor falling somewhere in between. There’s genuine comedy, and it’s a film that understands that there’s inherent (and dark) humour in the time-resetting-upon-death device. And its cast choices, dialogue, and sequencing of events all work in tandem to deliver a wonderful blend of tones. Never does its comedy feel forced or punched-in to the more grave aspects of the film. Instead, it all feels harmonious, and it’s entirely rewarded for its directness.

A significant amount of cleverness derives from the execution of the cyclicality of Cage’s (Cruise’s) sense of time. He enters the fray as an inexperienced non-soldier, and is forced to learn by doing - and repeating - a series of ever-lengthening events, as he is able to survive farther and farther towards his goal. Repeating the day again and again could invoke a certain tedium (Groundhog Day touched on this very notion), but Edge of Tomorrow balances it all beautifully, giving us a taste of Cruise’s monotony without ever dragging the film to a crawl. There’s always something new injected in each cycle, but it’s also in the clever edits and choices of what to show us, and when, that demonstrates an amazing level of thought that was put into the film’s structure.

Doug Liman seems perfectly at home here, with his dynamic style of shooting. There’s a near-dizzying sense of movement to many of the action sequences, and its clear that his skills directing action, developed on films like The Bourne Identity and Jumper, haven’t been lost while he spends much of his career producing television. There’s a beautiful sense of efficiency developed throughout the film - where the film gradually shows us more and more of the invading alien forces as Cruise’s control over the situation is directly related to the motion of the camera - clumsy and chaotic at first, and brief and controlled later on.

There’s a refreshing sense of tongue-in-cheekness in the near-future technology being employed, where the trope of exoskeleton mech-suits is constantly both a blessing and a curse to the humans who use them. But once we’re settled into the story, there’s never too much emphasis put on the technology, and it all feels more relatable to modern times than a film like Pacific Rim, and not nearly as outlandish as District 9 did with its insane weaponry (for the record, I loved both of those films).

Beyond editing and direction, the technical notions of the film - from its score to its visual effects - are nothing unexpected for a Cruise summer blockbuster, but you’re certainly not going to be blown away by these components the same way you might be by the ingenuity of the film’s storytelling abilities.

Comparisons of this film to a video game, with respawn-upon-death becoming the norm gameplay mechanic, are justified in theory, but I can only hope for more games - any games - that can be developed with this level of cleverness and sense of humour.