Let’s be honest, Tom Cruise’s last entertaining part was in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder” as Les Grossman. The young man, who introduced himself to us in the 1980s with films like “Taps” and “Risky Business”, has grown up right before our eyes, both physically and professionally. By 1986, he reached the highest watermark any Hollywood movie star could aspire to, flying F-14 Tomcats in the mega-blockbuster hit “Top Gun”. As an established box office sensation, Cruise then cemented himself to dramatic roles in such films as “Rain Man,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “A Few Good Men”—diversifying his acting portfolio with meatier leading roles.
It wasn’t until the inaugural “Mission: Impossible” film in 1996, that Cruise really began to jump at the opportunity to play action-packed heroes in Hollywood, perhaps attempting to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. The “Mission: Impossible” franchise forever linked Cruise to action movies, effortlessly discarding his many other acting talents to the side in a heaping ball of flames.
The truth is that Cruise is too good of an actor for directors to hide his theatric skills in action-packed thrillers. Cruise’s best films are when he’s the most vulnerable with a compelling story to tell. His efforts in “Magnolia”, “Jerry Maguire” or “The Last Samurai” all prove that. But his lackadaisical “Collateral” (2004) and “War of the Worlds” (2005) played like mid-life crisis films, desperate productions that only highlighted Cruise’s pigeonholed genre of mindless action thrillers.
In “Edge of Tomorrow”, Cruise regains his lost film mojo and delivers his best leading actor performance in over a decade. He plays Maj. William Cage, a public affairs desk warrior assigned to the front lines to fight an alien species. Costarring, and perhaps most responsible for Cruise’s outstanding work in this film, is the talented and well-cast Emily Blunt as Cruise’s Special Forces sidekick. Together, they make a formidable force in this sci-fi thriller—with Blunt easily the deadlier of the two.
Director Doug Liman (“Swingers”, 1996) creates a time loop saga that will have audiences making the easy comparison to “Groundhog Day” (1993) for its repeated reliving of the day’s events over and over. Likewise, “Edge of Tomorrow” garners quick resemblance to the alien battles in 1997’s “Starship Troopers”, with the fate of the planet resting on the outcome of the war. Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow” narrowly avoids replaying the opening scene one too many times. It’s obvious that all his efforts in the film were focused on these repeated, yet compelling, time shenanigans versus developing a thoughtful movie conclusion.
The good acting in “Edge of Tomorrow” by Cruise and Blunt overcomes a weak script and an anticlimactic finish. In fact, the relationship between Cruise and Blunt holds this film together long enough for viewers to give it a solid grade and come away satisfied. The first hour of the movie is fascinating with the use of the time loop and affords Cruise many opportunities to appear vulnerable, weak and timid…showcasing several layers to his evolving character. The second half of the film, unfortunately, dissolves into a less thought-out finale prompted by a lack of investment and caring from moviegoers into the outcome of the battle. Once the time loop is closed and Cruise’s work over with Blunt’s deadly Rita Vrataski, viewers will be thankful the ordeal and film have concluded. But not before realizing that the Tom Cruise of old is back. And that’s good news.