Doug Liman’s Edge Of Tomorrow is Groundhog Day for the future, on steroids. It is a meaty, loud, mechanical monster that uses the narrative device Groundhog Day popularised to tell a story of alien warfare. What made Groundhog Day so enchanting was that it never provided an explanation for Phil Connors’ phenomenon. He relived the same day over and over again until he became a better person. It was as if God wanted to play a trick on him. Edge Of Tomorrow, based on the Japanese novel “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, grounds the same phenomenon in reason. And where there’s reason there’s the possibility for inconsistency.
But maybe I’m doing the wrong thing by comparing. Edge Of Tomorrow, on its own, is great entertainment. It has a solid cast that delivers at the right moments. Its visual effects are ostentatious but effective. And even though the design of the robotic suits the soldiers strap themselves into makes them look like hobbling penguins, the design of the squid-like aliens is inspired.
The aliens are called Mimics (odd, considering they do not mimic anything), and they’ve been terrorising Earth for 5 years. They are supreme invaders, we are told. Experts at colonising and extinguishing. They look as though a toddler had gone up and doodled on a sketchpad, and they squirm about and project themselves to either attack or outmanoeuvre their opponents. Considering it’s been 5 years since the Mimics first appeared, it’s somewhat disappointing that the humans’ weaponised suits are not more advanced.
Into this world drops Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), in charge of military media. You know all those amateur videos of the World War II battlefields? Cage does something similar. He is choppered to London where General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) makes the order to attach him to the army vanguard, where he will record mankind’s victory on a beach in France that is borrowed, hook, line and sinker, from Normandy’s D-Day landings. This begs the question: If this war takes place on the same beach as Normandy, against an enemy that aims to conquer, why not set the entire story in the 1940s?
Cage has no combat experience. He is like an army clerk who takes pride in his mundane duties but panics when the duties become interesting. He tries to blackmail his way out of the deal, but is later arrested and sent to a British training camp, where Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton) whips him into shape and makes his platoon eat a bunch of playing cards as punishment for gambling.
The next morning Cage finds himself strapped to his mechanical suit, waiting deployment over the beach, which, just like D-Day, is a chaotic mess of death, gunfire and explosions. Before he can get his machine guns to work, however, he is killed. He wakes up with a start to the very same day he arrived at the training camp. The same drill instructor arrives with his accoutrements, the same Sergeant Farrell delivers the same welcome speech. He is brought to the same barracks and has to watch the same soldiers eat the same playing cards. It doesn’t take long for him to realise that he’s reliving the same day. Into battle he goes again, and into death’s arms he falls. Again and again.
And then he meets the beautiful and rugged Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) on the battlefield, the army’s most decorated soldier. She realises what Cage is and tells him to come look for her when he wakes up, which he does. Here is where Edge Of Tomorrow arrives at its reason, but I shall keep it hidden for the sake of not spoiling the plot. Cage has to relive the same day over and over again until he can find the source of the aliens’ life force and defeat it. How and why shall remain a mystery.
I enjoyed Edge Of Tomorrow. I have grown wary of Tom Cruise and his personal antics, but this movie isn’t a success because of him. In fact, none of the characters contribute to its humble triumph. The relationship between Cage and Rita is trite and perfunctory (the possible dynamics of their partnership would have been far more robust, I suspect, had the character of Rita been male, or Cage female). The peripheral characters are impersonations of themselves. They inhabit a movie that provides satisfying action and a well thought out narrative. But I return to Groundhog Day. Phil Connors relived the same day to learn about life and himself. He began the movie at Point A and ended it at Point Z. William Cage relives the same day in Edge Of Tomorrow to remain at Point A.
Best Moment | Cage rolling under a passing truck, while doing push ups, only to be crushed before emerging on the other side. In fact there are many funny moments that involve his death.
Worst Moment | The goddamn kiss.