Cool Things: Edge of Tomorrow

So I’ve talked about this movie before, how it did a great job of adapting a work across mediums and culture. (A warning: The post in question has spoilers galore and it’s long. If you still want to read it click here.) That post was mostly written a few days after watching the movie and I have a hard time recommending a movie before I’ve seen it at least twice, in no small part because most movies – good movies at least – cannot be properly understood after just one watching. And while there are some movies (and books) that are good for a single watching (or reading) to be put aside afterwards, the best entertainment, the kind I try to recommend, holds up to multiple experiences.

I finished rewatching the film, this time at home on BluRay, and I find it does. So what makes Edge of Tomorrow a film worth looking at?

I think the biggest thing is it’s thematic choice of the value of courage. It’s not apparent at the beginning but our hero, Major William Cage, is a coward of the highest, purest degree. In an odd kind of way it’s refreshing. There’s no hesitation or shame in Cage’s cowardice at the beginning of the film. Cage is a PR man for the US military in a war against the Mimics, alien invaders who’s march across the world seemingly can’t be stopped.

Well, sort of. Humanity won a battle thanks to Rita Vritaski and the high tech battle suits known as “Jackets” that were engineered expressly to give humans more of a punch against Mimics. No one’s sure how Rita managed to drive the Mimics back but now they’re hoping a repeat is on tap. A huge force has gathered in England to retake the continent of Europe in a high tech reenactment of Normandy and Cage is offered the chance to go with Rita’s unit and film the landing for propaganda.

He says no, because he likes not getting shot.

Offended at the blunt nature of Cage’s cowardice his commanding officer has him busted down to an enlisted man and railroads him into the infantry. Rather than landing with a crack veteran unit he lands with pure rookies, himself one of the least experienced of them all. In the insane melee Cage kills a strange looking Mimic and gets burned to death by its strange blue blood.

After dying he wakes up again the day before the invasion, about to be run into the infantry again. This is going to be something of a theme since Cage isn’t a very good soldier, he was in the reserves before the Mimics invaded and he apparently never went on active duty. This whole loop through time until you get things right isn’t exactly a new story, in film it dates back over twenty years to the movie Groundhog Day. The idea might have first been introduced in a short story called “Doubled and Redoubled”, published in 1941. But what’s interesting about this story is that Cage isn’t the only one time travelling.

Apparently all that blood he got on him when he killed that first alien pulled him into the time loop – that’s how they fight. It’s not that the Mimics have never lost a fight in this war, they’ve just been going around as many times as it takes to not loose in the end. But humans can get sucked into the time loop as well as evidenced by Cage – and, as it turns out, Rita.

What really makes this movie great is a combination of two things. The first is the very careful way the loops show Cage’s character progression from craven coward to wanting to help but lacking skill to able to help but jaded into not caring and finally arriving at the point where he has the courage to sacrifice even the things he wants in order to do what he’s accepted as the right thing. It’s a fascinating journey and it still holds up the second time around. The other thing that makes it work is the incredibly nuanced performances of leading actors Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt who make you believe these two people have actually traveled through time and been deeply marked by the experience.

Oh, the action sequences and alien monster stuff is really good too.

The promo materials for Edge of Tomorrow called the movie a thinking man’s action film and I really think it lives up to that title. It’s an incredibly beautiful movie with well written, well acted characters and a plot just twisty enough to keep you engaged but not so bizarre as to be unbelievable. Provided you’re okay with the space-aliens-travelling-through-time-to-conquer-Earth part. So why aren’t you watching it yet?!

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