Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat
Tom Cruise is no stranger to action movies, and certainly not to science-fiction action movies, having done quite a few of them in his time, the latest up until a few weeks back being Oblivion, which was… tedious. I certainly didn’t like it, but Tom Cruise is a fairly decent actor, so he kind of gets a pass on that. When Edge of Tomorrow was announced last year, I was actually quite excited about it, especially since the trailer portrayed actress Emily Blunt in such a positive light, but I was wary of Cruise’s SF action after Oblivion and so when the movie came out, I was wary of all the hype it was getting.
I suppose that, in retrospect, I really should have had more faith in both Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, and certainly in a military SF movie like Edge of Tomorrow. Thing is, I went in with somewhat low expectations that were tempered by all the positive buzz I heard about the movie post-released, so I suppose that I was somewhat hyped for it, going in. And it proved to be really good. I enjoyed both Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in it, with great cameos by Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. The premise itself is a bit thin on the ground, but the execution is pretty damn good and visually the movie is excellent as well.
The premise of the movie is that sometime in the near future, an asteroid crash-lands in the middle of Europe and from that crash emerges an alien race termed “Mimics”. The aliens spread far and wide all over Europe, necessitating the formation of a new global army, the United Defense Force, led by NATO. We are quickly introduced to Major William Cage, a PA officer in the US army who has been given the task of promoting the UDF to potential recruits all over the world and to also talk up the UDF’s most important asset, Sergeant Rita Vrataski, also called the Angel of Verdun for her stunning victory in that theater. When the main action starts, Cage is called to London to appear before UDF’s General Brigham who wants him to cover Operation Downfall, a massive UDF amphibious attack in France, but Cage refuses and is arrested as a traitor and impersonator before being sent off to the Heathrow FOB to join the UDF as a raw recruit. Soon after that, the big invasion starts and a confused Cage finds himself in the middle of a battle he has no hope of winning. He dies quickly enough, but then he…. wakes up to the moment when he got shipped off to Heathrow and then it is all “Live. Die. Repeat.“. He has to live the day again and again as long as he keeps dying and the enemy is undefeated.
Time loop for the win!
Basically, the movie is one of the best adaptations of a core video game mechanic: players get through a level, are killed at somepoint, and then respawn to a default position. There is a ton of story layered on top of all that of course, but in itself, I think the repetitiveness is handled really well, and viewing through the movie, you can very well imagine that you are playing a really high-end game, complete with mentorship and leveling up and what not. Which is what we all want from a shooter/RPG game right?
Tom Cruise as William Cage and Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski are two of the best things about the movie. Both actors bring a considerable amount of skill and panache to their roles and the real surprise is Rita Vrataski. In action movies it is almost always the male character who gets to be the uncompromising badass who has the job of saving the world and getting the girl. Well, in Edge of Tomorrow things are a bit reversed. Rita Vrastaski is the big hero, the soldier who won Verdun for the UDF and killed hundreds of Mimics in the process. For much of the movie, it is Cage who plays second fiddle to Rita rather than the other way around as one would otherwise expect. She is the celebrated hero, he is the raw grunt. And I loved that chemistry between the characters. It is executed perfectly in the movie and both actors play their role to their best. Emily Blunt shines through again and again.
There is a scene early on when Cage is repeating the invasion and he is frustrated to hell and back and what happens is that he takes a terminal wound while trying to protect Rita Vrataski. They don’t know each other at this point in the movie, for Cage hasn’t told Rita what is happening to him as yet. She walks over to him, as if about to help him or give him some words of finality, but instead yanks out his exoskeleton’s battery and the spare as well and then just walks away. One of the best scenes in the entire movie. He is a random grunt. She is the celebrated hero. She is more important in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, once the scene from the trailer kicks in, in which Rita tells him on the beach to come find her when he wakes up (re: when he dies again), that’s when the movie really gets interesting, and when we move on to what I think is the second phase. Up until this point Cage has lived and died while repeating the same thing over and over again. Somehow the aliens know that the invasion is coming and they are prepared for it. But with Cage stuck in a time-loop controlled by his repeated death, he is in a position of power which he tries to exercise constantly but always falls short. Once in the second phase though, revelations are had and we learn the truth about how the Angel of Verdun got her moniker and what exactly is happening to Cage. And it is awesome.
Throughout the movie, Rita Vrataski always has the upper hand on William Cage. First as the hero he can never be. Then as the mentor who whips and executes him into shape. Funny thing: during his training, whenever he takes a terminal wound, she just straights up and shoots him to reset the day, which I found really hilarious. She is uncompromising in the pursuit of her duty, and that is something that Cage struggles with. War is not a distant thing for him anymore. He has been living and breathing it for what amounts to several weeks’ worth of time, but for her has only lasted for barely a day. And it is something that comes up in the second half of the movie as a rather important plot point, given the amount of things that Cage is able to learn via the multiple resets.
It is not all heroism all the way though, for there are moments when Cage is too numb and tired from everything that is happening to care what happens. He tries to abandon everything and actually does desert his post once, but is still caught up in the finality of the aliens’ final goal for humanity. At another point, he carries on alone, not willing to put anyone else at risk from what he sees as his own burden. At one point he even tries to convince Rita to consider an alternate plan of things since he has seen what happens in the grim end if they continue on their path. It is in these moments that the movie feels complete for it shows not just the heroism but also the despondency, the numbness of battle, the dejection and desperation of a soldier, and more. I wish that the movie was a little longer so that we could have seen a bit more of these moments, because I think that they were all brilliantly performed by everyone involved.
Speaking of the cinematography and the visuals, the movie earns an A from me. The battlesuits worn by the UDF soldiers can seem bulky and inefficient at first, but once you see them in action, the whole view changes. We see experts like Rita Vrataski do all kinds of battle maneuvers in the suit, while (initially) raw recruits like Cage just flail around in them, walking and fighting rather inexpertly. I loved the battlesuits and their different configurations, of which I definitely saw three in the movie. That adds character to the whole thing really, and best of all is the fact that the Angel of Verdun aka Rita Vrataski goes to battle wielding a massive broad-bladed sword. Quite fitting really since the movie is based on a Japanese light novel that has also been adapted into the manga format since the novel’s release in 2004. Rita Vrataski’s entire look in the movie screams that she is a total badass and that you really don’t want to mess with her. In fact, one of her nicknames is “Full Metal B*itch*, reflecting her fighting prowess and her victories against the Mimics. I kind of liked that aspect.
The Mimics are also handled well. They look rather unique as far as I’m concerned, and in them Edge of Tomorrow has a huge leg-up on some of the other military SF movies that have come out in recent years such as Battleship and Battle Los Angeles. The only place where the movie goes wrong with the Mimics is that we really don’t get to see much of their… culture. We only see them at war, and they are quite bestial as well so there’s not a whole lot you can latch on to as a viewer.
The ending of the movie is quite thrilling and it gives you goosebumps in each scene. I was right at the edge of my seat for the last fifteen minutes and when the movie ended, I did cheer. Cage got a great send-off in the climax, and that was all well and good, but I wish that the writers had given Rita Vrataski more to do as well, because I think she kind of got shafted there in the end, and it shouldn’t have been like that, not after all the positiveness she bore throughout the movie. Ah well, you win some and lose some.
What matters in the end is that Edge of Tomorrow proved to be a far better movie than I expected, and I think that it is definitely worthy of being classed as summer blockbuster. It is certainly one of the best movies I’ve seen in this year, and one of the best military SF movies of the last decade. Worth watching at the theaters if you can.
Posted on July 21, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Review Central and tagged 2014 Release, Alien Invasion, Aliens, All You Need Is Kill, Asteroids, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Christophe Beck, Christopher McQuarrie, Doug Liman, Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt, Erwin Stoff, Female Warriors, Film Review, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Hollywood, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Live Die Repeat, Military Science Fiction, Military SF, Mimics, Movie, Movie Review, Powered Armour, Review, Review Central, Rita Vrataski, Science Fiction, Time Loops, Tom Cruise, Verdun, Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Pictures, Warrior Women, Women In Film, Women in SFF. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.