The 2014 Doug Liman film, starring Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, is one of the best action sci-fi films of the past decade
Last Updated: 08.00 PM, Jun 06, 2022
In our new weekly series, Monday Mayhem, we recommend fast-paced Hollywood action films
The 2010s gifted the world with a long list of action films — each unique in its own way, in terms of style, setting, structure, themes, and narrative. However, there are not many that truly stand out, as compelling action films in their purest form. While there were over 50 superhero films released in the 2010s, only a handful of them such as Man of Steel, Logan, X-Men Days of Future Past, Deadpool, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition, Kick-Ass, or even Kingsman: The Secret Service that truly pushed the boundaries of the action genre.
However, there have been a few standouts outside of the superhero spectrum that completely redefined the genre, George Miller’s reboot/sequel of the Mad Max franchise titled, Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015 starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron is widely regarded as one of the best action films of all time. Whereas the Indonesian films The Raid and its sequel by British filmmaker Gareth Evans is a landmark achievement in action fight scene choreography, as is the case in John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves released in 2014. But one film that is often overlooked in this discussion is the Doug Liman film, Edge of Tomorrow.
Based on the acclaimed Japanese light novel, and subsequent manga series, All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow is set in the year 2020. An alien invasion five years prior to 2020 decimated a vast majority of the world. The narrative follows Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) on his way to meet the joint head of the combined armed forces of the world, at their London headquarters. Cage, who has never had first-hand experience of combat duty, tries to con his way out of the whole situation, only to be dumped onto a military base camp where he is to be part of the vanguard who are preparing to launch a final assault on the enemy.
As they land on the beach in France, they are ambushed by the alien creatures. Cage does not last long either as he too is killed by an unusually large alien called the alpha. And to his credit, he kills the alpha before he dies. But Cage soon wakes up at the military base with the day somehow having reset and only he appears to be aware of the fact. He goes into battle again, dies again, and relives the same day again and again until he meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), aka the Angel of Verdun. He soon discovers why he is resetting the day and why Rita knows exactly what’s happening to him. Rita, a legendary soldier, who orchestrated mankind’s only victory against the aliens had the same power that Cage has. A power they both received from the alpha they killed. Meaning the aliens have the same ability as well — the power to reset the day. This gives them the advantage of resetting the day each time they make a mistake.
The film is in essence an amalgamation of the 1993 Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day, and the 1997 sci-fi action film Starship Troopers. But Edge of Tomorrow has delivered a far more compelling cinematic experience than both the aforementioned films. The very relatable characters and Cage’s evolution as a human being, from a would-be deserter to Earth’s last hope of survival are perfectly captured by the film’s screenplay. It shouldn't be shocking how good the screenplay is considering it was written by Christopher McQuarrie. However, the film’s striking aspects are Liman’s direction, cinematographer Dion Beebe’s stunning visuals, and the astonishing emotional depth the film offers. The relationship between Cruise’s Cage and Blunt’s Vrataski being unique would be an understatement.
Vrataski trains Cage every day, meaning Cage has to die every day — he’s either killed in training mishaps and in battlefields, or killed by Vrataski herself so that the day is reset. By the end of it, Cage is an experienced fighter who is then seen trying to guide Vrataski through the battlefield. It's an interesting dynamic considering Vrataski won’t have any recollection when a day is reset but Cage will re-live him being killed every day. After thousands of attempts, he’s a battle-hardened veteran, even though in real time he only boasts a day’s worth of experience.
Towards the end of the second act of the film Cage has spent years' worth of his time with Vrataski, but Vrataski barely knows the man. Cage is forced to watch her die every day so that one of the several variations will help him successfully complete the mission whilst also keeping her alive. And each time she dies, Cage pulls the trigger on himself to reset the day again — with hopes that one of the permutations and combinations eventually clicks.
There is also an abundance of surprisingly well-written supporting characters, considering the narrative structure of the film involves several scenes playing on loop focusing predominantly on the two protagonists. Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor, and others essay excellent characters pivotal to the central narrative. Whereas Blunt’s Vrataski is a masterclass in how to write powerful female characters. In fact, she is a bigger action star in the film than Tom Cruise’s Cage. From her exoskeleton suit and to her giant sword, which looks like it is from the Devil May Cry or Final Fantasy franchises, she perfectly embodies the idea of a futuristic Japanese action star from anime or manga. In retrospect, Edge of Tomorrow could be the most successful adaptation of a Japanese novel/manga/anime. And it remains one most underappreciated films of the 21st century.