Hollywood is a fickle industry, and audiences these days are erratic and hard to please. For about a decade now or more the reliable old “movie star” has been fading into near-irrelevance. That this is true seems self-evident, but in case you needed any more proof, this weekend’s big budget release starring the one and only Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow, came in third at the box office and didn’t even crack $30 million. But I’m not here to talk about Tom Cruise (who is great), or Edge of Tomorrow (which is also great). I want to talk about Emily Blunt, who co-stars in the movie alongside Cruise, and who needs to be a big damn action star like yesterday.
Emily Blunt first came to my attention, and most others’, from her role in the 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada. Sure, Meryl was great in that, but Blunt was far and away the most memorable character, with her excellent hair and sharp attitude. Blunt had already made her mark in a British film called My Summer of Love, which I high recommend, but The Devil Wears Prada was her breakout. Only, the breakout was not nearly as big as she deserved. Blunt went from that film to roles in such esteemed films as The Jane Austen Book Club, Dan in Real Life, Charlie Wilson’s War and The Great Buck Howard.
Her next big role was opposite the equally wonderful Amy Adams in Sunshine Cleaning, but that wasn’t much of a hit, nor did it get many glowing notices. 2009’s The Young Victoria should’ve marked a turning point, with Blunt getting a starring role and delivering an excellent performance in a really good movie. She moved up a level starring with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau and Jason Segel in The Five-Year Engagement, and still neither of those films seemed to do much for her.
Then there was Looper. Granted, it was a smaller film, and she was only third-billed, but good lord was she ever great in it. In that film she finally revealed her best qualities as a performer. She carries a quiet strength in the role. She’s tough, and still she’s vulnerable enough to feel like a real human being. I’d long thought Emily Blunt was great and should be in more films, but Looper took that pining to another level.
Edge of Tomorrow makes good on taking Blunt’s stock up a notch. To say she’s great in the film is putting it mildly. Though the film is Tom Cruise’s show, Emily Blunt walks into the frame and steals it from him every time. Though she maintains that vulnerability we saw in Looper, she amps up the toughness, and oh boy is that fun to watch. Emily Blunt is a total badass in the film. Her character is nicknamed—to her chagrin—“The Full Metal Bitch” by the public, and she lives up to the name in the best ways possible.
The first time her character actually appears in the story, it’s during a big battle, fighting alien squid monsters in a mech suit with a huge saber. It’s incredible to watch, in part because it’s filmed so well, but also because Blunt herself seems so natural in the part. The sequence culminates in a bunch of dead aliens and Cruise looking up at her in awe. That’s when we get the big hero shot of the film, and it’s glorious.
Not every actor can pull off a shot like that without it feeling goofy, but when it happens in Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt comes off as nothing less than the most badass person you’ve ever seen in your life. That carries through the rest of the film, too. For every ounce of determination Cruise brings, Blunt matches and then bests him, making action look effortless, delivering lines with awesome force and retaining just enough humor to breathe fun into every moment. It’s a true star-making turn, or it would be if only the movie was more of a hit.
Here’s hoping, though, that producers and casting agents all over Hollywood see Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow and have the same reaction I did. This woman needs to be in more movies. And big movies. And she needs to be the lead. Somebody needs to get Emily Blunt a big action franchise, and fast. At one point she was cast to play Black Widow in the Marvel films, but had to drop that due to commitments to the abominable Gulliver’s Travels. Let’s hope that horrific injustice gets rectified on the quick. Make it happen Hollywood!