In Edge Of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise returns in a role he might as well have patented. The great man dominates the field in playing shallow blades to whom the bracing chill of Hard Truths is applied, whereby he learns humility, or at least a degree of self-awareness.
In this iteration Cruise plays Cage, a PR man for the United Defense Force, a global alliance thrown together to defend the planet against an invading horde of aliens called Mimics. Cage is ordered to the line to cover the final assault, but is so terrified at the prospect that he tries to blackmail the general-in-chief (Brendan Gleeson) and is promptly downgraded to private and shipped off to the front anyway. He’s killed straight away but in the process ingests alien blood, gifting him the ability to relive the day over and over. Emily Blunt plays another soldier who had the same ability but lost it, and helps Cruise try to win the war.
Throughout his career, from Rain Man to War Of The Worlds, Cruise has had great fun playing the jerk, secure in the knowledge that his character would redeem himself by film’s end. But at least those films really committed to his unseemliness. This time, Cruise’s too-slick-by-half routine couldn’t be more perfunctory, and lasts barely as long as the opening credits. Less than half an hour in, Cage is defined less by his cowardice than his extreme competence. Immortality, after all, means there’s plenty of time to master the art of combat.
This has a familiar ring to it, and much has been made of the debt Edge Of Tomorrow owes to gaming, in which the ability to reset is fundamental. But there’s a problem when the same rules apply to characters in movies. Every time Cruise checks out, we do too, a little. By the time the film arrives at its monumentally daft conclusion, one sits slack-jawed but unmoved. The most elusive quality in blockbusters remains suspense, routinely overlooked in favour of explosions signifying absolutely nothing.
Edge Of Tomorrow is in cinemas now.