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Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay by) and Jez Butterworth (screenplay by) and John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay by) and Hiroshi Sakurazaka (based on the novel “All You Need Is Kill” by)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
Release Date: June 6, 2014 (United States)
Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
In 2015, aliens called “Mimics” arrive in Germany via an asteroid and swiftly conquer most of continental Europe. By 2020, the United Defense Force (UDF), a global military alliance established to combat the alien threat, finally achieves a victory over the Mimics at Verdun using newly developed mech-suits. In Britain, the UDF plans a major invasion of France, and General Brigham orders recently attached public affairs officer Major William “Bill” Cage to cover it. Cage, having no combat experience, objects and threatens to blame Brigham if the invasion fails. Brigham has Cage arrested and sent to Heathrow Airport, now a military base. Cage awakens to find Brigham has demoted him to a private and falsely labelled him a deserter. He is assigned to Master Sergeant Farell and the misfit J-Squad, all of whom dislike and belittle him.
On the morning of the invasion, Farell and J-Squad are quickly killed by the Mimics who were somehow aware of their planned invasion and ambushed them. Cage uses a Claymore mine to kill an unusually large blue Mimic but is mortally wounded by the explosion and covered in the alien’s blood. Cage jolts awake to find himself back at Heathrow, reliving the previous morning. His attempts to warn Farell against the invasion are ignored and he experiences the loop of dying on the beach and waking at Heathrow repeatedly. With every subsequent loop, Cage’s battlefield skills become more and more impressive. During one loop, Cage tries to save Sergeant Rita Vrataski, a celebrated hero of the battle of Verdun. Upon seeing his preternatural talent, Vrataski realizes Cage can loop time and orders him to find her the next time he wakes up.
Cage reawakens and locates Vrataski, who takes him to Dr. Carter, an expert in Mimic biology. He explains that the Mimics are a superorganism in which the “Omega” controls the cerebrum, while the “Alphas” behave as the ganglia through which the Omega controls ordinary Mimics; if an Alpha is terminated, the Omega resets the day and adjusts its tactics until the battle is won. Cage inadvertently “hijacked” their ability to reset time through his exposure to an Alpha’s blood. Vrataski had this ability at Verdun, using it to win the battle before she was wounded and received a blood transfusion, losing the power. She tells Cage to locate and kill the Omega to end the alien invasion.
Over many more loops, Vrataski trains Cage to excel in combat. After a frustrating lesson, Cage escapes to London, only to discover that the Mimics will attack there next after the invasion. After seeing visions of a dam in Switzerland where the Omega is hiding and spending many loops figuring how to escape the invasion and reach the dam, Cage grows closer to Vrataski, but she is only interested in the mission. Convinced that the pair always reach a point on the journey where Vrataski is killed no matter what they do, Cage flies to the dam alone. The Omega is not there and he is ambushed by an Alpha which attempts to strip him of his ability to reset time, but Cage deliberately drowns himself.
Cage and Vrataski infiltrate the Ministry of Defence, where Cage convinces Brigham to give him Carter’s prototype device (which Brigham had confiscated from Carter before sending him to a psych ward) that can locate the Omega, but they are pursued by military police on leaving. During the ensuing car chase, Cage uses the device and discovers the Omega is under the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. Cage is seriously injured during capture and wakes up in a hospital to find he has been given a blood transfusion and has lost the ability to loop time.
Vrataski frees Cage and they recruit J-Squad to help destroy the Omega before the invasion begins. They fly to Paris, where the soldiers sacrifice themselves so that Cage and Vrataski can reach the Louvre. Before luring away an Alpha standing between them and the submerged Omega, Vrataski kisses Cage to thank him for getting her as far as he did. The Alpha kills Vrataski and mortally wounds Cage, but he manages to drop a belt of grenades that destroys the Omega.
As a dying Cage floats down into the Omega’s blood, he awakens en route to his first meeting with Brigham, who announces on TV that Mimic activity has ceased following a mysterious energy surge in Paris. Cage goes to Heathrow, now a Major again, and sees that all of J-Squad is alive. He later finds Vrataski, who doesn’t recognize him; Cage laughs.
Edge of Tomorrow is a great science fiction / action movie. Tom Cruise is probably the foremost Defense Department recruiter in American history so it is funny and on-brand to see him playing a defense contractor / military officer (in name only, initially) in this film. Tom Cruise the movie star is usually in control and heroic, but his character in this film does not start that way. He gives a genuinely funny performance in the early stages of the movie, playing the hapless hypocrite, happy to send others to war but wanting no part of it himself. With a repeating-day plot device that echoes Groundhog Day, the movie succeeds in many of the same types of situational jokes, despite being overall a very different type of story. My biggest laugh was Cage’s first failed attempt at rolling under the passing truck and the incredulity from his commanding officer, played by Bill Paxton. Cage’s awkward and pathetic attempt to convince Rita to sleep with him was almost equally funny. We get to go on a video game journey with Cruise’s Cage, who has unlimited lives, as he learns via dying repeatedly how to survive and eventually win the war. By the end, Cage has transformed from a smarmy cowardly salesman into a tough, grounded, leader. Cruise’s performance is one of the best in his career. His co-star, Emily Blunt, is equally great as the stoic, tough, and beautiful soldier, with just enough vulnerability to be compelling on screen. She and Tom Cruise had great on-screen chemistry.
The story itself is a mix of the aforementioned Groundhog Day and an alien invasion video game. The writers did a really neat thing with this though, in letting us start out feeling like we’re on the front end of Cage’s learning process, before subtly changing the tone by having Cage move ahead of the audience and his fellow characters with respect to knowledge of the situation. This tone shift is best captured in the scene on the farm, where Cage is trying to get Blunt’s Rita to stay behind, and live, while he leaves on the helicopter alone. It was jarring, but in a good way, to realize abruptly that a lot of time has passed, that he has been to the farm many, many times before we in the audience finally join him there. This shift imbues Cage from that point forward with an air of mystery – because we do not know for sure again how much more he knows than us – and tonally it makes him the leader in the right against the Omega. This scene also sets in motion a strategic change by Cage, wherein he makes different choices earlier, and thus has more knowledge to bring with him to his resumed interactions with Rita later in the film.
The action scenes and the CGI were intense, fast-paced, but still easy to keep up with visually. The movie provides a lot of fight scenes so the excellent execution throughout really lifted the rest of the meatier character moments around them.
The touch of confusion in the final scenes worked and made for a satisfying conclusion. How did Cage reset the day after he and the Omega both apparently died? If the day is reset, how is it that the Omega dies anyway? Did the human beings actually win at all – or do they only believe that they won? After the long and arduous journey with Cage, his survival, the victory celebration, and the salvation of his friends was cathartic and satisfying. That said, I think the lack of total clarity in the victory makes the ending even better. In a film that constantly had its story being reset, the final reset leaves the audience with feeling that the journey might not end here – and that is a positive thought to leave with after an enjoyable movie.