“I’m not really a soldier…”
Edge of Tomorrow should not have worked. Moviegoers should have paid for their overpriced ticket, purchased a heart attack sized popcorn and a diabetically massive drink, and sat in their seats awaiting disappointment. And when the credits finally rolled, and the lights brightened the theater, they would be able to tell their friends, “I told you so.” The film defies logic. Time travel and aliens? How could that possibly work out? Yet somehow it does. Forget the increasingly boring superhero movies and the summer flicks with inflated budgets. Mark my words; THIS will be the best blockbuster released this year.
Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a glorified spokesperson for the United States military. He’s never seen combat, nor does he intend to. A flashy grin and a stern seriousness help him draw in recruits for the world’s attempt to fight an alien onslaught. We don’t know why the aliens invade, and frankly, we never find out. It doesn’t matter. Especially not for Major Cage. His cowardly attempts to withdraw from combat land him on the front line as a defense of France is made. They drop onto the beach, wearing fighting gear faintly similar to those in Avatar, and it’s obvious they have no shot. It’s a slaughter. Think of Saving Private Ryan’s depiction of Normandy.
Throw into the mix some deadly, mechanical looking aliens that ambush the unprepared soldiers. Cage makes it further than you would expect, seeing that he can’t figure out how to turn off his guns’ safeties. And just like that, he’s dead, and seconds later waking up right back where it all started. It’s the beginning of a long, tortured, and vicious cycle towards self-actualization. He journeys from the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the top over the course of what must be an eternity spent perfecting a single day. Cage does so to fulfill his potential. To try and save the human race.
When the first trailer was released, I shook my head while watching it. Tom Cruise, a scientologist, battling aliens day in and day out. It certainly didn’t appeal to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Cruise, hate him or love him, is a star. He has perfect delivery and comic timing in a movie that is a hell of a lot funnier than you’d think. From the absurdly fun action sequences to the intense emotional moments, he puts the film on his back, and I don’t think it would have worked with a lesser actor. It also helps that his co-star is the beguiling Emily Blunt. She plays Rita, one of the best at fighting the alien invasion. Posters of her cover buses and buildings in an Uncle Sam like fashion. Cage and Rita run into each other on the beach and she can tell what is happening to him. It happened to her as well. “Come find me when you wake up,” she says. And so he does. Day after day after day.
Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith), this is an expertly made film. It’s crucial for the audience to remember what they see and hear as they watch Cage navigate through his first day. That way, like him, we can feel smart about knowing what’s to come, how to fix/prevent it, and what could be done better next time. Liman and the head writer Christopher McQuarrie (who wrote The Usual Suspects) don’t waste a single moment in the film. We aren’t told how long Cage has been reliving the same day. Instead we get to deduce it ourselves. How else would he know the name of another soldier’s 2nd grade teacher? How many days must go by before you remember exactly how many steps to take before dodging an alien? Everything is tremendously done. Some scenes are exactly the same, but shown from a new angle or perspective so that we don’t get bored, and others change so unexpectedly that it’s jarring. But at no point does it become any less riveting.
For a movie built upon deja vu like scenes, there are quite a few twists and surprises in the third act. And I won’t spoil the ending, except to say it left me thoroughly satisfied. This movie is sure to get the Groundhog Day comparisons. But it’s really a combination of that film and the short story Doubled and Redoubled by Malcom Jameson. His story was one of the earliest to feature a timeloop, and unlike the two films, revolves around the character having the perfect day on repeat. It’s a fun, short read, and shows just how much this story device is about bettering one’s own self.
Cruise never lets his character seem cocky as he gets further along each day, and that’s part of his growth. Each day brings new progress and a closer relationship with Rita, and each day he must watch her die, or have her shoot him point blank to start over. Imagine the difficulty in that. Having to relive your absolute worst day, struggling to make it any better. It’s a lesson in cynicism versus optimism. As Cage, Cruise takes us along, revealing that a cynical man, no matter how hard he tries, will never succeed. They can’t know what success is because to them the idea of it is too far fetched. But as he develops and matures through countless days of defeat, he shifts to optimism. So when the finale is done and the last scene plays out, we’re left hopeful as to what will happen next.
“What I am about to tell you sounds crazy.”
Rating: 4.5 out of 5