No, not really, which the average moviegoer might have told you. But then again if the film stars Tom Cruise, well, maybe. His most recent efforts outside of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise make even that enhanced proposition iffy though.
I won’t go very far into the “science” behind this science-fiction because it makes little sense and is a mere plot device anyway. But somehow in a battle for the survival of the human race, the hero’s blood gets infected with a virus that means whenever he gets killed, which is all the time, the clock immediately resets to let him live the day all over again.
And getting better and better at fighting and knowing what will happen and what to avoid, he progresses further toward his goal. Of course, this isn’t so much sci-fi as video game theory, a player advancing further and further into a game the more he plays and learns from past mistakes. So “Edge” has got that audience locked up at least.
The Doug Liman film is based on a 2004 Japanese illustrated novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka about an 18-year-old recruit in the United Defense Force who finds himself battling an alien race of superior beings called “mimics.” Caught in a “time loop” though, the soldier can change his fate one death at at time.
To accommodate the star casting, the soldier has been changed to a middle-aged PR guy who has risen in the ranks by showing the military how to sell this war. And to give the character an “arc” — a beloved must-do for all studio development execs — he’s been made into a horrible coward.
Cruise’s Major William Cage is joined in this battle for mankind by an incredibly chiseled and buffed looking Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski, an Amazonian warrior who is the human race’s top combatant — and one of three people aware this time loop exists.
“Come find me when you wake up,” she tells Cage moments before they are about to die a second time. He looks her up all right and she explains the rules of the game, which include the fact he really must die on the battlefield each time. Wounded might get him a blood transfusion and seriously compromise his magical skills.
You watch this film rather than get involved with it. It’s not boring but it’s not engrossing either. Witnessing the same scenes over and over again can be a drag — although the point is the two can vary things each time — but this allows little opportunity to develop either characters or relationship.
For a film that aims at the epic, it’s surprising that the story, written by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, plays like a two-hander. Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton are around at the periphery and a few actors play scruffy grunts in Cage’s J Squad. But the film has little time to develop any of these beyond a single eccentricity or wisecrack.
In battle the actors disappear into RoboCop-like armored suits that may be the latest in futuristic combat gear but look pretty silly as movie costumes go. The aliens are even worse, CGI bores that appear like turbo-charged octopi that whip, whirl and assault with deadly force but zero visual impact.
Most of the story takes place on Normandy Beach in France where the UDF gets destroyed over and over again by an enemy lying in wait. (One curious aspect of “Edge” is how all the language and references date back to the two World Wars.) But a climax in a ruined Paris at night defies description or understanding.
The showdown lacks clarity and the characters disappear into a sea of visual effects so that a viewer has to squint to find them. What does happen at the end? And more problematic, given the reset ability originates with the aliens and not the humans, what is to prevent their leader from simply resetting the climax to ensure a better outcome?
Cruise is his usual capable self, with that career-enhancing self-deprecation and quick smile that overcome a lot of murky drama and vague action. But he’s come a long way since “Born on the Fourth of July” and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
Blunt as an action heroine could be the new Angelina Jolie in that department.Yet that would be such a waste of her terrific skills as an actress.
The effects are both great and overwhelming in the sense they upstage what little drama “Edge” has going. Liman lets these action pieces bury his tiny story although that may have been the idea all along.
Which brings us back to the beginning — a reset if you will: Why place so much money, energy and hope on such a dubious premise?
Opens: June 6, 2014 (Warner Bros.)
Production company: 3 Arts
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley
Director: Doug Liman
Screenwriters: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Based on the novel by: Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Producers: Erwin Stoff, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Gregory Jacobs, Jason Hoffs
Executive producers: Doug Liman, David Bartis, Steven Mnuchin, Joby Harold, Hidemi Fukuhara, Bruce Berman
Director of photography: Dion Beebe
Production designer: Oliver Scholl
Costume designer: Kate Hawley
Music: Christophe Beck
Visual effects supervisor: Nick Davis
Editors: James Herbert, Laura Jennings
Rated PG-13, 113 minutes