Tom Cruise did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Major William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow.
Tom Cruise is one of the last true movie stars around in the traditional sense where his name alone carries a certain pull for most viewers, though these days more international than USA viewers, which is isn'y always combined with that of an actor. That is sometimes earned particularly in certain action stars, however Cruise was someone who frequently attempted to push himself as an actor even while maintaining a steady of stream of studio blockbusters as well. Now a star who can actually act creates actually a very unique opportunity that only exists with true stars, which is one can play with their expected star presence. This is something we are granted here as the film opens we are not given the typical confidant hero common for current era action Cruise. This as the film opens with his Cage as a professional PR soldier mainly there to sell the idea of the war rather than do any fighting. This is before he meets the main general (Brendan Gleeson) who wants Cage to lead a PR campaign on the front. Cruise is brilliant in this scene. This as any notion of Cruise we had become accustom to is thrown out the window. Cruise instead in a way brings a bit of that early Cruise egotistical swagger with great big grin on his face of disbelief as he hears about the general's idea. Cruise's delivery magnificent in the sort of hollowness that emphasizes a false sincerity of a selling any idea, other than himself going to the front. Cruise though going even further though in showing a different side as that smile, and falsely confident delivery, wavers a tad to reveal just a coward as he explains himself as just an ad man essentially. When the general refuses to waver though Cruise's return to the sleazy confidence as magnificent as selling again with that questionable confidence a blackmail plan to the general, which naturally leads Cage to a more severe punishment.
Cruise in that opening scene wholly subverting what had become expected of him, in such a fantastic way that managed to both grant us the sense of Cage being anything other than a hero while also just being quite entertaining in the approach. This idea continues though as Cage finds himself now setup as a private in a random squad with a particularly unsympathetic drill sergeant (Bill Paxton) watching over him. Cruise continues with the subversion as Cruise most often is seen as the expert of a given thing in most of his action films. Here on the other hand Cruise is wonderful at portraying a man being completely out of his depth. This with his slightly confused expression at his sudden railroading that slowly segues towards intense fear as they actually begin the attack. Cruise is great here because he finds the right balance between showing a guy genuinely out of his element while also being quite hilarious in portraying this befuddlement. This all though having a little extra impact as we see the usually confident Cruise bumbling around his initial action scene, only just lucking out in killing a creature before his own death, though that creature leading him to repeat each day at the time of his death. This leading to his first day back where Cruise is again wonderful this time in a different type of befuddlement that is all the more extreme as in this constant state of deja vu. Cage's initial attempts to use his knowledge of the future are great comic beats, with Cruise being essential in the sort of actual sheepishness he brings at times, as well as the genuine, though hilarious, fear at some of his upcoming demises. Cruise finding the right balance in bringing fun to this guy dying again and again.
Eventually Cage finds seems to find a path via newly minted war hero Rita (Emily Blunt) who previously had the day repeating power before losing it. The chemistry being essential to the success of the film which is not at all standard, particularly not for Cruise. This as Cruise is still this great bumbling fool as she is initially training him, and brings just the right qualities of sleaziness to Cage, personify the old Cage, which Cruise uses to great effect. The best perhaps being Cage's inquiries if the power can be transferred by sex, and Cruise's unabashed delivery of "how many times did you" try is sheer perfection. Cage begins to learn his ways about the battlefield, through much effort in his interactions with Blunt. This with Blunt being the slightly berating quality against Cruise is more sloppy manner. This though that they articulate so well in their chemistry that changes in dynamic and in that we get a greater sense of their relationship. This as Cruise begins to show a greater real confidence within the action scenes, that is particularly well earned here, we also see a greater mutual respect between he and Blunt. Cruise beginning to become the more expected Cruise presence though in a way where we see it as this natural transition to a man with a mission and purpose. This would be already a terrific turn from Cruise, however I am happy to say that it is not the end of really the strength of Cruise's work as he delays setting on Cruise control, fitting to who Cage is.
This is as Cruise's performance as much as he brought out the comedy of the situation of the man living, dying and repeating, we also find the very real hardship that would come from this. This in particular seeing Rita die again and again in each failed attempt. Cruise is outstanding in his moment of just very much moving with action, however in his performance, through his eyes and the sense of frustration in his voice, we see the very real anguish in each death. Cruise offering a real humanity within the ludicrous idea, in portraying a true sense of the weight of the situation. This though along with Cage getting to know the hard-bitten Rita better. I love how Cruise doesn't portray it at this point with any sleaze, or even a romantic overtone. It is with this almost meek manner he just tries to insert little connections when he can, with this underlying sense that he is trying to find some comfort within his peculiar situation. An amazing scene for Cruise comes when the two seem to get a minor respite at a farm house deep in enemy territory. Cruise is great in this scene by portraying so much towards Blunt rather within himself in the sense, he portrays the whole scene as supportive and comforting as possible towards her rather than anguish within himself. This showing again so effectively this growth in Cage as Cruise effortlessly conveys Cage's emotional pain by the way he is trying to ease her away from her seemingly inevitable demise. Cruise displaying not it as this vague action cliche, but rather this genuine sense of heartbreak of it, that is so beautifully performed by him.
Before the final phase of his performance, there is an excellent scene for Cruise where Cage goes alone to attempt the mission. Cruise doesn't portray this as normal Cruise conviction rather this almost detachment in the determination as his eyes are of a man who has seen so much death that at this point he is trying just to eliminate in almost as this mechanical act. When even that doesn't work a different direction is finally taken towards the right path with Rita to potentially destroy the enemy. Here is where we get Cruise control, but some of the best Cruise control you will see. This as it is wholly earned in his moments as this time lord, and we have that Cruise delivering of Cage's knowledge that just is really this sort of perfected confidence that could only come from a performer with the presence of Cruise. Cruise though still doesn't coast as when Cage finally loses the power, leading him and Rita to have to attempt a final action with full life or death stakes, Cruise brilliantly pulls back a bit. This again showing now Cage as a man, a far better trained and prepared man, but still a man. This though with his sense of fear no longer as this selfish cowardice but rather towards the fate of Rita. This in their final conversation that is again work from Cruise that exceeds expectation. This as he attempts to dissuade her sacrifice Cruise eyes are filled with this very real empathy finally showing a changed man, not as this perfect super hero but a man who cares. This for me even making the kiss between them work not as this declaration of love, but rather a final bit of human connection in a more general, yet very pure, sense. This is a great performance by Tom Cruise. This as it is an exceptional example of him as a star, as he's magnetic, endearing and funny here, but he goes further. This as he never glides over the story of Cage, rather he brings you into each detail of his days, for laughs, but also in crafting a real portrait of a man changing, not at all unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (which SIDE NOTE: I just realized both female companions to the main character are named Rita) which this film is so often compared to for obvious reasons. It's a great star turn, and a great performance, that uses that star quality in a way that would've only been possible with Cruise in the central role. This by subverting the expectation of what we've come to expect from Cruise, while also fulfilling that promise as the film goes along as well. Of course as much as this review is done, I would remiss if I did not mention Cruise's final reaction shot when Cage meets Rita for the first time, and the last time, after succeeding in his mission finally but resetting back in time. His bemused grin is just one of sheer comic perfection as a man whose been through everything, yet doesn't quite know what to say at this point.