Edge of Tomorrow
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
It is not a coincidence that this film was released on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day. It involves a united military effort to reclaim Europe from an invading force, only in this case it is not the German army but rather an extraterrestrial species. Luckily, these futuristic troops get more than one chance to accomplish the task. If you've heard or read anything about this film already, it is likely it's been referred to as "Groundhog Day Goes To War" or somesuch. Anything in the past twenty years involving a time loop seems to get labeled that way, and in most instances the reference is justified. It does apply here too, although there is a science fictional explanation and not just some vague supernatural cause. Not necessarily a logical explanation, but...more on that later.
Several weeks have passed, and the film will be fading out of theaters soon since it has done poorly at the box office (at least domestically). Sometimes it is hard to tell what will work and what won't, sometimes the studios promotion has the emphasis on the wrong elements, and it is especially difficult for them to figure out how to promote a film that is not part of an existing franchise, or at least based on a well-known book. Would this have done better if it starred someone other than Tom Cruise, who is definitely getting a bit old for this type of action film? If he had been presented as a hardened, veteran soldier it may have been different, but his character, Major William Cage, works in public relations. They had to work hard to justify someone his age, with no combat experience, being deployed among the troops invading the European mainland. Afterwards, I was wondering if that might have been a nod to another D-Day Invasion movie, referencing James Garner's role in The Americanization of Emily. It's too late now, but I think it would have had a better chance with someone like Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum, or even a younger unknown. That alone would have shaved 10 to 20 million off the budget.
The story itself is good, even if a bit predictable, and it contains a lot more humor than you might expect from the previews. A lot of that is thanks to Bill Paxton, plus several odd-ball characters in the platoon in which Cruise is placed. Once the time reset starts, we get several repeated scenes of him meeting this platoon, with slight variations each time as he learns more about them. When he meets Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) on the battlefield, she realizes he is experiencing the same phenomenon that helped her become a hero in a previous encounter with the aliens. Their enemy is comprised of three types, the Mimics, which are the ground troops, the Alpha that controls a group of Mimics as well as transmitting intel back to the Omega, which seems to be at the top of the chain of command, and apparently there is just one Omega in Europe. It must be killed or the war rages on, with an inexhaustible supply of Mimics and Alphas.
The aliens have a unique evolutionary trait. An Omega has the ability to reset time if one of its Alphas is killed. This enables them to adapt their tactics to avoid that pitfall the next time around. When Cage is killed for the first time it is from a bomb he sets off just as an Alpha attacks him, and he ingests some of the Alpha's blood just before he dies. Thus, he inherits the ability to experience the time loop with all his memories intact. Vrataski lost that ability after being seriously wounded and given major blood transfusions. Together, Cage and Vrataski, with his memory retention and her superior fighting skills, are able to make alterations to their strategy each time they hit the beach. Each time they die and the clock is set back 24 hours, she uses the time before the invasion to sharpen his fighting skills. Slowly (after all, it is always the same day) but surely, they make headway in the discovery of the Omega's location.
I liked everything about this film, even Cruise's performance. Well, everything except the ending. That should have come about ten minutes earlier. I'll even venture a guess it was added after advance screenings, and at the insistence of a studio executive. I need to check out the manga and novel on which the film is based, Hiroshi Sakurazaka's "All You Need Is Kill," to see if that speculation is correct.
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