Every time I went to the movies in the last six months, I saw a trailer for Edge of Tomorrow. I did not hate that trailer the first time I saw it, or even the second time, but I learned. Granted, it makes a certain amount of sense to see a trailer for a sci-fi/fantasy action movie before another sci-fi/fantasy action movie like Noah or 300: The Worst Movie Ever or X-Men: Days of Future Past, but Saving Mr. Banks? Really? Her? The Lego Movie? Eventually, it got to the point where I couldn’t wait for Edge of Tomorrow to finally come out, just so I could stop seeing its stupid trailer every single time I went to the goddamn movies. But I hated that trailer so much that I started hating the movie, before it even came out. I was not planning on seeing it, but a friend made me go, just because it was his so-called “birth day.”
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
The Plot: Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is a Major Asshole, a high-ranking military man who’s never even been trained for combat, but acts instead as the head of advertising for the world’s united military forces. Why has the world teamed up? To fight shape-shifting aliens that have been conquering the world after landing in Europe. After a clumsy attempt at desertion, Cage is drafted to the front for Operation Downfall, an all-out attack on the aliens following a monumental victory at Verdun, achieved almost single-handedly by rookie soldier Rita (Emily Blunt). Turns out the military is a tad overconfident, though, and the invasion is a massacre. Cage dies, and then wakes up the day before. And then dies again. And then wakes up again. Having no doubt seen Groundhog Day at least once in his lifetime, Cage realizes that his new ability may hold the key to victory, and that this is exactly how Rita won at Verdun.
So, time travel is complicated, and yes, this movie does sound like Groundhog Day with violence. Despite that conceit, it’s a remarkably… uh, not-dumb film. Obviously, Cage has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s quickly able to convince Rita of his ability, which he absorbed from the aliens, which do this on the reg in order to conquer planets. Rita has since lost her ability in a blood transfusion, but knows the ropes, and is able to train Cage pretty effectively. The pacing of the movie and the sheer number of repeats Cage goes through makes the whole thing pretty plausible on a character level. The first several times Cage relives the battle, he does a horrible job. He’s gradually able to figure out how to use his cool mech-suit, but his situational awareness is severely lacking. Basically, he’s horribly ineffectual. This is a character who, at the beginning of the film, is good at nothing, but he grows a great deal.
Living the same day over and over again endlessly would probably wear thin after a while, so imagine what it would be like to relive the single most violent, stressful, and frightening experience of your life forever. Cage’s arc goes from confusion and shock to genuine hopefulness once he starts figuring things out, to frustration, hopelessness, and depression. It doesn’t help that after hundreds of days he starts to know Rita in a deep and intimate way, only to see her die violently every day and start over as strangers the next. This whole relationship is handled quite well throughout the film, much to my surprise.
Despite that, though, Edge of Tomorrow is not an excessively gritty movie. So many blockbusters these days feel the need to be too serious for the plots they have and completely devoid of any humor. I’m looking at you, Man of Steel. Once again to my great surprise, Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t seem to have any pretense. Doubtlessly aware of the inevitable comparisons to Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow embraces the comedy on which the premise is founded, and manages to strike a balance between its humor and its gravity. I actually laughed out loud several times throughout the film. Much of this is thanks to a brilliant performance by Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell, who’s basically a caricature of the mustachioed slogan-spewing Southern CO, but it works because his dialogue is fantastic and his delivery is spot-on, but would we expect anything less from Bill Paxton?
The action sequences are also pretty well done. I was afraid this movie would be an endless CGI-fest with boring combat, but it held my interest, primarily because the action is all grounded in the characters, and since they develop throughout the narrative, and their fighting capabilities develop, the action is never repetitive, you know, despite the basic premise of the film. That’s the real achievement here, I think. Despite the fact that the entire story is about repetition, none of the movie feels too redundant or unnecessary. The pacing is deliberate and aided by some good editing. The ending is maybe a little shaky, but it still didn’t bug me that much. What we’ve got here, ladies and gentlemen, is not a cinematic masterpiece, or a definitive piece of art, but a damn good blockbuster. Obviously, blockbusters can be both great entertainment and great films, but I never expect them to be. Edge of Tomorrow is a good time at the movies, and I’m so happy I never have to see its stupid trailer ever again. Oh my gosh. I just realized the poeticism of the seemingly endless repetition of the trailer for this particular movie. Whoa.