A lot of people have been calling this one Groundhog Day with aliens, justifiably so as the premise is that of a man living the same day over and over, except now on the battlefield against an alien race far more evolved than any of us. But I think a better way to put it would be a dramatic representation of every video game ever. Indeed, what Edge of Tomorrow brings to the table is a character that, just as in first person games, keeps dying and re-spawning, getting better at the game, doing the same levels multiple times, to finally reach the end. This countless loop of the same day also presents a character arc that is powerful, while also pointing to the humour at having to live through the same things again and again. The movie is an adaptation of a Japanese manga titled All You Need is Kill. Although the premise is the same, there are many things Doug Liman’s movie does different, some in appreciable ways and others, not as much.
Earth is at war, defending itself against hordes of fiendish and ultra-dangerous aliens, referred to as the ‘Mimics’. The world’s armed forces have coalesced to form the United Defence Force, the frontline stand to prevent the aliens from ravaging the countries. Starting off rather abruptly and seemingly like any other summer sci-fi flick, we see Tom Cruise’s Lt. Col. Bill Cage being forcefully shipped off to the UDF ground forces. He wakes up at the army base, where his kicking and screaming of his absence of combat-training and raw fear are brushed off by the Seargent, and he is introduced to ‘J Squad’, a rag tag bunch of surviving soldiers. He is then adjusted for his battle armour and sent into war the very next day. The Mimics, mysteriously being aware of the attack, prepares an onslaught which ends up with one scared, and very dead Cage, Mimic blood drenching him and his own blood. But then he wakes up again on the same army base, fresh to the day that had already passed. It is at this point that you realize you’re in for something different.
While being a direct adaptation of All You Need is Kill, the movie sets the premise quite different to that in the original Japanese manga, and it is obvious to see why. While the comic involved an adolescent born and raised in the war, fighting to save the world being the one thing on his mind, I’m glad that this was not imbibed into the movie. The fact that Bill Cage is a man out of his place on the battlefield, and the character arc that he undergoes provide some genuinely humorous moments and lends an emotion that we can all find ourselves relating to. Although being a living advertisement for the efforts of the U.S and the UDF in the protection of the human species, physically being on the ground and fighting the war himself was the last thing on Cage’s mind. From the start of training, through especially those threatening shots of violence and massacre, it is quite comforting to know that the protagonist echoes our fears and is just as confused and lost as we are. The comical shade of the plot is brought out very well, and the casting of Tom Cruise was very wise in this regard. Having to see him tediously live through the same day over and over, until it becomes unbearably predictable arouses the same laughs that Groundhog Day did.
Just before his third (I think) death on the same day, Cage has his first rendezvous with Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, the UDF’s best on-field soldier and crowned with the title of ‘Full Metal Bitch’, referencing another brilliant war movie, possibly my favourite in the genre, Full Metal Jacket. The only words she utters to him are: ‘Come find me when you’re awake.’ On his next loop of the same day, Cage tries desperately to escape J Squad to get to wherever Rita is. It is extremely comical, as we know he cannot truly die, to see the inexperienced Cage try to body-roll under a moving truck during P.T., only to turn road-kill the first time. This is one of those moments when what the movie reminds you more than anything is a video game. Now I’m not highly affable toward movies or games belonging to that world, of metal-clad soldiers with insane ammunition going up against aliens or some other mysterious life form for the survival of mankind. That has just never been my thing. But there was something about this movie, that although belonging primarily to the same world as Halo and Pacific Rim, that made it special and unexpected. And I believe it is these moments that make this movie what it is.
I mean, it is inexplicable just how much this story of Bill Cage resembles a noob gamer playing an MMO for the first time, and dying within minutes into the game. But then he plays each obstacle multiple times, until he gets better and better and finally overcomes it. The editing for the scenes where he dies, re-spawns, and repeats the actions, was perfect and while showcasing his progression and advancement of the mission, manages to highlight the dark humour underlining it all. There is in fact, similarity to Groundhog Day in the way this endless number of loops is sequenced, particularly in the scenes where Cage is restless and speaks along with the Seargant the words he has always been uttering, of a ‘new birth in glorious violence’. I was glad to find the comical side to these events shown so well, and was one of the winning deviations from the manga. I admit, when it came to be the quintessential exposition of the movie, there was a generous amount of generic sci-fi theories, it doesn’t feel tedious at the time, since the overarching plot is extremely entertaining.
Nuances of character are not a strong point in the movie, of which I believe the original manga did a better job, focusing all of its attention on the mind of the protagonist, and how it copes with having to undergo the time-loop. It follows much more the diary-format for showcasing the emotions, so that we have a character sketch. While that seems considerably lacking in the film, I believe this was the only way to go for a mere two-hour span, where it would have had to choose between such emotions and the active plot. But it’s not as if the movie left out its characters altogether either, as we witness a stark advancement of Cage’s character from a fish out of water to a true soldier, with reflexes and strategies at prime. Although not explicitly stated in the film, we can assume that the glorious skills and victories of Rita can also be attributed to her time looping the same day. Rita was, I thought, an excellent character, and we can see the dynamic of the duo transform throughout. The gravity of the number of times Cage must have been reliving the same day hits us hard when Cage goes from being an apprentice who gets killed most of the time to a man who guides Rita through the battle, and the faces of his J Squad mirror our own. Having dismissed the fear of death from its audience within the first arc, the movie plays off the dark humour of Rita nonchalantly shooting him in the face as soon as he gets injured. It is simple to see how Rita is so cold and impervious to emotions, having been killed an uncountable number of times, as Cage will soon be. We see the fear rise once Cage tells us, at the safe-house, that this is the farthest he has gotten yet, and so from now on his moves are completely unplanned and unexpected. But inducement of true fear happens once we let go of our handles, once Cage’s blood has been replaced, and he loses his ability to reset time. After having followed him through many a death and laughed along, the movie catches us off-guard to let us know that the next time will be the last. But this too, I felt was compromised by the climax of the movie, which I’m not sure about.
It is enthralling enough to watch Cage strategize and remember every milestone he reached at during his previous loop, but alongside this, there is another emotion brewing. Having met and spent the day with her for what may possibly have been years, Cage finds himself falling for Rita. Rita, at the same time, though has only known Cage for the duration of one day, no matter which loop he is in. No one else has the knowledge that so many recurrences have happened. And it is quite moving, though not brought to the surface, to fall in love with someone, spending every day with them for years, only to realize that each day she would be meeting you for the first time. I know this has been done in a couple or more other movies about amnesia and whatnot, but its addition here without over-speculation or overt attention drawn to it, felt just right. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt seemed right in their roles, but more for Cruise as Cage than Blunt as Rita. Tom Cruise was indeed the best choice for such a movie, being known in the past to add that dash of humour to his action roles, while also dedicating himself to his own stunt-work. I was also pleasantly surprised at the casual jab at Cruise’s short stature in order to emphasize how out-of-place and weak he was in the beginning, especially while strapped in armour. Another very positive aspect to the film, I felt, was the way the action was built up. While it obviously helps that the actor does his own action, the direction for the same was extremely good, without being a shaky blur. Especially the battles on the beach felt picturesque and brilliant fun to watch.
What Edge of Tomorrow is, is miles ahead of its competition in the action and sci-fi blockbuster genre, adding flesh to the otherwise potentially dry plot. If I were to point out an extreme negative of the film, it would have to be the decision to change the climax from the manga. All You Need is Kill finishes with Rita’s death and the protagonist destroying the Omega-mimic to emerge victorious, which was a satisfying end. But Hollywood hit hard toward the last few minutes of the film, where without explanation, the blood of the alien engulfs Cage, and he wakes up the next day, out of the loop. And to top it off, Rita seems very much alive but without the memory of Cage in her, which just seemed very sappy and flowering with hope, an element that detached from the rest of the movie. But when I look back, the movie was quite impressive, spliced with brilliant action, a unique premise and performances which, while not their best, were good. The plot-point involving the time loop and what they do with it is the winning point in the movie. Humour doesn’t feel at home with all stories, but I praise their decision to paint it in such a shade, which made this one all the more special. I honestly cannot remember the last time I truly enjoyed a blockbuster like this one. But maybe that’s because they just don’t make them like this anymore.