Silver Screenings and Wide Screen World are co-hosting the Time Travel Blogathon, and my contribution is the review of “Edge of Tomorrow“, a fantastic science-fiction film directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. Relying on the now fabled “Groundhog Day” concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is about a Major (Cruise) who is doomed to relive one particular day of the invasion battle with aliens until he is forced to find a solution to the infinite time loop and save the humankind from the destructive alien force.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
“The empires of the future will be empires of the mind” (Winston Churchill).
“What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
“Edge of Tomorrow” is based on a 2004 Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. In near future, as Earth is being invaded by aliens, William Cage (Cruise), a Major with no combat experience, is ordered to go to fight the enemy as part of a landing operation in France. Cage is killed during the battle, but, surprisingly, finds himself again alive and well back on the day before the battle. The time loop then repeats itself, and every time Cage is killed, he again starts the day of the battle anew. Trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Cage makes an acquaintance with a Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski or the Angel of Verdun (Blunt). Together they try to piece together the time conundrum and devise a method to defeat the enemy. As a time-travel movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is simply great and it is fascinating to watch Cage waking up each day with the hope to make that particular day the one where he will be able to vanquish the aliens.
How did Cage get into this situation in the first place? General Brigham of the United Defence Force had Cage arrested for disobeying his order to lead troops to battle in France. Brigham is played by Brendon Gleeson (“In Bruges” (2008), “The Raven” (2012)), who is the kind of a man whose sole presence signals “army power”, and the best scenes in the film are with him. Cage is then demoted to a mere private and is assigned to a J squad of misfits in the army. His Commander becomes Sergeant Farell (the late Bill Paxton (“Frailty” (2001)), a role which was written specifically with him in mind), and any latter attempts by Cage to explain to Farell that he has been to the future and that he has seen that the invasion would fail are dismissed since there are already orders no to believe anything that the private Cage might say.
“Edge of Tomorrow” relies on the so-called “Groundhog Day” scenario, named after “Groundhog Day” (1993) movie where a character (Bill Murray) wakes up each morning with the same day being repeated over and over again. The film spurred numerous other similar-in-plot films, with “About Time” (2013) and “Happy Death Day” (2017) being most recent films that borrowed the concept. However, it is wrong to think that “Edge of Tomorrow” is just another copy-cat movie that uses the concept to its advantage. This is because, firstly, and I will probably drop a bombshell here – “Groundhog Day” is not original at all. The 1993 film “plagiarised” the idea from the book by Leon Arden called “One Fine Day” (1981), where a bachelor finds himself on a day-repetition loop and tries to do good deeds to earn his tomorrow. Arden lost his case in court because he was told that “mere ideas are not copyrightable”. Besides, the “Groundhog Day” scenario is particular suited to this combat story since what could be more advantageous in a battlefield than knowing every action/strategy of your enemy beforehand?
Also, there is so much more to “Edge of Tomorrow” than its fascinating “Groundhog Day” scenario. Firstly, humour, sarcasm is such a great thing about this film. There is so much entertainment to that effect, and the dialogues are great. “Commander, you are not going to believe what I am about to tell you!” – shouts Cage at one point, and receives a cold reply from Farell – “I am certainly not”; or “Ten minutes, and then I am killing you”, says Rita, to which Cage replies with the air of indifference “Fine”, and where else would you hear that kind of a conversation? One of the best lines though is Cage saying to Farell, “Oh, you’re American,” to which Farell simply replies, “No, sir, I’m from Kentucky!”
Secondly, the chemistry between Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt (“The Adjustment Bureau” (2011), “Sicario” (2015)) is good enough even if their romance is not one of the warmest out there. The character of Rita Vrataski is a great example of the female empowerment in an action movie, and she is a role model worshipped by soldiers at the army base in the movie. Thirdly, it may go without saying, but the special effects in “Edge of Tomorrow” deserve all the praise – we may ponder at all the fascinating technological advances even post-“Avatar” (2009), and the chaotic camera work during battle scenes really makes the audience step into this maniac environment where each of the soldiers is just moments away from death.
What also helps this movie is that Cage, as played by Cruise, is so imperfect as a hero. He appears like an ordinary human being to be sympathised with, and in fact, even comes off as a coward a number of times. We cannot feel any pompousness or superiority coming from Cruise when we see him trying to evade joining the army and then, at one point, running away during the battle. Cage completes his so-called “hero’s journey” – he grows with each repeated passing day, and gets better as a person – (inspired by Rita) and as a warrior (trained by Rita).
Some critics have pointed out that “Edge of Tomorrow” becomes exhausting and repetitive, but can a movie which relies on the “Groundhog Day” concept be fairly accused of the repetition? With each repeated day, Cruise’s character gains new knowledge or skills – gains a new insight into the matter and so do we, the audience, is shown something different – a new way of considering the multitude of possibilities of defeating the enemy. What is clearer is that, in the film’s second half, logic is somehow abandoned, and it becomes too far-fetched to think seriously about all the different modalities of the enemy and the concept of destiny, even though the film remains compelling and thought-provoking throughout.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is not just another action film nor is it just another Tom Cruise film. It is a gem of a science-fiction film, which although incorporates the “Groundhog Day” concept successfully, does not rely solely on it to be so effective. The cast, acting, dialogues (including humour), and special effects, all make the movie an entertainment treat like no other, and definitely one of the most exciting films of 2014. 8/10