I heard a rumor flying around Hollywood years ago, that Beverly Hills Cop was originally written for Sylvester Stallone. As the story goes, Stallone liked the basic story well enough but, you know, being an Academy Award nominated writer, he felt he had to put his own take on things and so re-wrote it extremely, turning the comedy into the action film Cobra. The original went on to be successful on its own with Eddie Murphy. This illustrates the idea, well trod ground in a number of screen and creative writing handbooks, that one way of being creative is to take an idea and swap genres with it. Danny DeVito did it with Throw Momma From the Train and now Tom Cruise and Doug Liman are doing it with Edge of Tomorrow.
Edge of Tomorrow is a science fiction/action adventure version of Groundhog Day. Being an SFAA it follows that there is a logical explanation for the time loop Cruise’s character Cage finds himself in, rather than the ineffable happenings of Bill Murray in Day, but nonetheless it is the same concept, right down to wringing comedic moments from the repeated daily actions. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film. It’s not. It’s not necessarily good, either. It IS quite fun though, and worthy of an afternoon’s diversion.
On the not so good side is the plot itself. Aside from the hand-waving which accounts for the temporal reset button (here, Cage always starts from the same point whenever he dies, as opposed to resetting the same 24 hours whenever he wakes up) the basic set-up of the story doesn’t compute logically. Everything starts when Cage is demoted from major to private when he refuses to do something which doesn’t make sense for him to do anyway. There were so many other ways to put him in the situation he needs to be in that this just rang false from the get go and felt lazy.
Then there’s the ending. If Liman was a director with half the guts of Frank Darabont, he would have ended the film by letting his characters pay the ultimate sacrifice instead of copping out with a Hollywood Happy Ending. Instead, he comes up with a Deus ex Machina which doesn’t exactly negate the preceding couple of hours, but it does leave a sour taste in the brain.
On the good side, though, is Cruise. Cruise and his supporting cast to be precise, but he is the anchor holding it all together. As an actor, he’s been a bit hit or miss. Like Jim Carrey or Brad Pitt, he’s obviously got chops when he feels like using them and here, he actually does. his performance is at times fun and quirky and at times serious and befuddled by his situation. And he’s not doing it by himself. Unlike other actors of his fame level, who make sure they are the focus at all times, in this film Cruise lets go of the spotlight stranglehold and anchors his supporting cast, graciously giving a lot to Emily Blunt as the female lead, Rita (who, if there is a sequel, should be allowed to run with it on her own) and playing beautifully off Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell, the guy who is in charge of Cage’s new comrades, J Company.
Speaking of J Company, they should get the TV series or at least a nice 6 issue comic book run. Led by Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way and Charlotte Riley, this team of military oddballs and outcasts build so much character into their brief time on-screen you might find yourself wishing the film spent more time with them than with the various vagaries of time travel.
In the end, this is the type of film which will mean little to its stars, make stars of its supporting players and will routinely be shown on saturday afternoon television for years to come. If you don’t see it now, in 3D in theatres, you will see it eventually. And odds are, you’ll have a good time watching it.