"Edge of Tomorrow" is a movie that was underestimated, but fortunately found its audience. It felt great to be surprised by something new in the summer movies season. While people are rightfully quick to compare this to "Groundhog Day", "Edge of Tomorrow" is more than a sci-fi knock-off. This movies finds its own footing, telling the story in fresh and inventive ways.
Warning: This is a spoiler-filled post. IF you haven't seen "Edge of Tomorrow", turn back now.
Visually, this movie knocks it out of the park. While so much technology is involved, it never takes center stage. I think that will aide this movie in the long run. The invasion scene clearly took its cues from "Saving Private Ryan", and it stands up well. The movement of the Mimics feels just unnatural enough that it seems alien, but it does’t seem fake. Admirably, we pay too much attention to the action or sci-fi elements. Those items are there to entertain, but mainly serve as a backdrop for our surprisingly human story about our hero's journey.
So lets talk about Cage’s path through this story. After our rather unlikable war profiteer is sent off to war, he awakens just after his death. The process of reliving the day started with expected confusion. However, as Cage’s shock wears off and he meets Rita, he accepts responsibility at a natural pace. We seem him struggle, even abandon his mission for a day, but ultimately see him find the meaning of his journey. This felt like an innovative way of telling us a story about a soldier who finally learned what it meant to be one. He finds his courage and earns his rank. He started each day as a private, and worked his way into saving the planet. Thats impressive, and somehow does’t feel forced.
The casting for this movie was very well done. This movie served as a great reminder why Tom Cruise is the action star we love. As Cage, Cruise carries this movie so well. He starts the movie playing against type as an unlikable taking head who refuses to see battle. As the story progresses, he changes into the movie into something we are more familiar with. Cruise gets a chance to carry action sequences and charm his way into working with people that meet him for the first time.
Equally up to the challenge in Emily Blunt as Rita. Rita’s role is a fascinating one. She’s a complete bad-ass, battling away with a huge manga/anime inspired sword (Final Fantasy VII comes to mind). She’s clearly scarred by the previous experience of living each day over and over. Her distant pain reminds me of Frodo’s burden of the ring in the Lord of the Rings series. In an alternate universe, this role could have been played by an 80’s action star worthy of an "Expendables" movie. The character could have leaned much more heavily on the action elements, adding more trailer-worthy jaw-dropping scenes. "Edge of Tomorrow" is much stronger for the way Rita is written, as well as Emily Blunt’s portrayal. There’s so much complexity to these exchanges were every meeting is new, but they can speak in shorthand due to Cage’s experience. Rita always helps us remember that she only met Cage a few hours ago, even if it somehow feels like ages.
Storytelling is the clear strength of this movie. Repeating the same day over and over is a challenge. "Groundhog Day" is touching and hilarious, making the challenge of repeating itself seem effortless. "Edge of Tomorrow" borrows methods of focusing on certain portions of the day, always moving the narrative moving forward, but keeps up a sense of urgency. It seems that the creators trusted the audience to keep up, never dwelling too long on an aspect of Cage’s “day”. Additionally, the movie was never afraid to jump to something we hadn’t seen, only to let us figure out how many times it had happened before.
When each day can be “reset”, it seems like the risks shouldn't be clear. The writers ensured that we felt the sense of urgency by including the information about how the power works. We know how Cage can lose his power. We see that the Mimics are watching him, and they want that power back. We are reminded that humanity is facing annihilation. With the stakes this high, its amazing that the scope of our story feels to be the right size. We follow two strong characters, and barely spend time with more than that.
When the credits rolled, I wasn’t sure that I liked the ending. I didn’t understand why the remains/blood of the Omega meant that everything reset to the beginning of the movie. Somehow, the defeat of the Omega was transferred to the past, and Cage woke up a a more convenient point.
However, the more I thought about it, the less I cared. I was prepared to let the movie end with the death of our main characters, sacrificing themselves for humanity. The happy, Hollywood ending may not have been necessary, but it was a better feel for the light summer movie that "Edge of Tomorrow really is." Maybe this is the example that shows us a little movie magic is ok.
We still have unanswered questions about why Cage was given a falsified punishment, nor do we fully understand how the Omega worked, and thats ok. In fact, thats good. "Edge of Tomorrow" gave us its rules (reawaken after the arrest after each death, Cage retains knowledge, don’t lose blood), and it sticks to them (until the end). There are a few things unexplained, but I welcome the wonder and speculation. "Edge of Tomorrow" is too fun, nor does it take itself seriously enough to be held to that standard.
Note: I've since heard arguments that the ending is justified and explained in the rules. I'm not sure that I buy it yet. I'll need to see the movie again and give it another look.