Spoiler Alert: Tom Cruise dies. A lot.
Before I go anywhere with this, I want to note that I have not read All You Need is Kill, either in its original novel form or the manga adaptation. I do know enough details about that to know, though, some of the key differences between this version and those – chiefly, that the lead character in Edge of Tomorrow is only the same as the one in All You Need is Kill in that they’re both male and both experience a day that keeps resetting when they get killed. I do plan to read All You Need is Kill now since, well, I’ve meant to for a while anyway, but I’m also extremely curious about how the story is when its about a twenty-something foot-soldier, not a middle-aged public affairs officer.
So, for those of you who’ve been beneath a rock for a while, Edge of Tomorrow takes place on an Earth that has been invaded by nasty creatures known as Mimics, who kill indiscriminately and have over-run much of Europe. Major William Cage, of an unspecified branch of the American military, is a Public Affairs officer who has been working to sell the idea of enlistment to the world’s public on behalf of the United Defense Force, manages to piss off a general and finds himself with his identity erased, dropped down to the rank of Private, and plunked into a unit that is landing on the beaches of France the next day. As Major Cage doesn’t even know how to disengage the safety on his weapon, it predictably goes poorly, although he manages to get splashed with the blood of a special type of Mimic, an Alpha, as he lays dying, which in turn locks him into a time-loop. Major Cage must re-live the day again and again and again, getting no further each time until Sergeant Rita Vrataski notices him anticipating what is going on and tells him to find her after he dies again. Guess who previously had the same repeat issue?
One of the things that I was aware of coming into this movie was that somewhere someone had said this was a great movie if you were a fan of watching Tom Cruise die over and over again. This is very much true, although what I hadn’t seen before was that, quite frankly, several times this is quite funny. At one point Cage rolls under a convoy in an attempt to sneak away from his platoon to go find Vrataski and ends up getting squashed by a truck, his platoon mates and platoon sergeant expressing dismay – “Why did he do that?” – and mark it down to stupidity on his part. Vrataski also shoots him point-blank several times during training sessions as he tries to convince her that his leg isn’t actually broken or that his spinal cord hasn’t been cut and he can still fight the next day during the invasion.
On the whole, its a decent film, although it really has no depth to it. I was mildly bothered by how little we get of the psychological affects on Cage and Vrataski of having to relive the same battles over and over again (Vrataski has, by the time we meet her, lost her ability to reset upon death). We can see it a bit in the way that Cage changes as a person in battle, and he’s definitely not the foolish and foppish coward we meet at the beginning (Cruise does an excellent job of making his character come across as odious and repellant as possible so that the viewer will surely feel initial delight over his comeuppance), but there’s a lack of depth to what he’s going through. Part of this could be excused by the fact that he doesn’t know anyone he’s fighting with, but this doesn’t hold water after he’s reset enough times that a couple months must’ve passed, especially considering he ends up coming to care about Vrataski. It wasn’t enough to ruin the film for me, but it was something that kept nagging at me from time to time while watching.
I want to touch on Sergeant Vrataski in particular, as I’ve seen people disagreeing about her and about whether the movie leans feminist or is sexist or what. I personally like Vrataski quite a bit, and I was also surprised that the movie never let the other shoe drop as far as she went. The movie does try to tack on some romance, but I use the term ‘tack on’ quite literally, as its an aspect that could just as easily have been dropped entirely and wouldn’t affect the rest of the film at all. Its clear that Cage comes to care quite a bit about Vrataski, but it rings more true as him being desperate to ensure the survival of the only other person who understands what he’s going through rather than as being a matter of romantic feelings. Spoilers, but Vrataski does kiss Cage right at the end, although even here it isn’t clear whether she’s doing it because she’s developed squishy feelings for him, or more simply that she’s about to go do something she knows will kill her and he’s the last person she’ll ever see alive. So while I can get that this aspect irritated some folks, since it didn’t come as romance to me anyway, I wasn’t bothered by it. Admittedly the end of the movie strongly implies that the story does go romance after the credits end, but, hey, it doesn’t itself go there. (And on that – lol, fraternization, folks?)
But, again, I was surprised – I kept expecting the movie to jerk the rug from beneath my feet and have Vrataski be damselized, but she never is. Without her, Cage would obviously be stuck on infinite loop until he went completely out of his mind, as it isn’t until after she starts training him that he is finally able to make it past the landing site. Sergeant Vrataski starts as a professional soldier and remains as a professional soldier, and it was *so* good to have it be that way. Edge of Tomorrow isn’t a feminist film, but it’s not an anti-feminist film, either, and that’s really all that I was hoping for as far as that goes.
Now, let me pick on a few things that were silly:
- the idea that the public face of recruitment could be easily passed off as allegedly being a deserter and as someone who was impersonating an office when trying to desert is flat-out stupid; even if none of the members of the platoon had been recruited via his efforts, which itself seems unlikely given casualty rates, you can’t convince me that not a single soul at the FOB has never seen his face or heard his voice – the guy’s been on TV news stations worldwide! are they trying to tell us that they really think soldiers are this ignorant?
- speaking of recruiting – why on earth does a fight against extinction require a recruitment effort, anyway? the Vietnam War was on the other side of the planet from America, didn’t threaten the vast majority of Americans directly, and they still whipped out the draft for that; seriously doubt that a fight against a genocidal alien menace would end up requiring that people be recruited for it in any country
- But how does a guy do well as a PR-type and not be able to figure out that trying to blackmail a general into letting him out of battle was only going to get him screwed senseless? What a dip.
- I tried to not bring my own military know-how and experiences to my viewing of the movie, since this is more often than not a guaranteed way to not enjoy a military-oriented movie, BUT Cage saying he doesn’t know how to handle a weapon because he’s in Public Affairs is silly; you can’t remain an officer in the military if you fail to qualify on a weapon’s system. Also, yeah, thanks, way to slander officers who commission from ROTC, Hollywood – never mind that we’ve actually got a better shelf-life than Academy grads (average time in service? about three and a half years) and the same as folks who go through OCS/OTS.
But, hey, if I’m going to give with one hand and take away with the other, the WWI allusions bear mentioning. Vrataski is called the Angel of Verdun in recruiting and propaganda materials, and Verdun was the site of one of the deadliest and lengthiest battles in human history, the Battle of Verdun. It began with the Germans forces attacking, but by its end they were retreating, and the furthest advance during this battle represented the furthest their military got on the Western Front. And while the landing we see again and again here certainly brings to mind D-Day in WWII, the useless slaughter of it is much more reminiscent of WWI, with that conflict’s endless hurling of people into hopeless situations to die over only a few feet gained, if even that. I don’t think its a coincidence, either, that the Mimics land in Germany and that the map we’re shown of their advance resembles the maps of WWI, especially when the terms ‘Western Front’ and ‘Eastern Front’ are regularly employed when talking about the war.
Anyway, I’ve lost the thread a bit, haven’t I? This is supposed to be a review, but I keep pinging off on tangents. The fact is, I liked the movie decently, although I didn’t think it was especially wonderful or profound. I’ve found myself less and less interested in action movies over the years, so its an accomplishment for one to not leave me bored and distracted. I am surprised that it didn’t do better at the box office in America than it did, although apparently this has been the case for many movies starring Tom Cruise over the past several years… I do suspect that the title didn’t help it at all, think they would’ve been better off sticking to All You Need is Kill. Edge of Tomorrow? What the hell is that, even? Its telling that this is the title for a few things from the 50’s and 60’s and nothing since.
In closing – Major Cage? Did ROTC in college and is still a major at age fifty? What a slouch!
Also: minus points for no naked man-ass from Cage, I watched X-Men Days of Future Past right before that and got naked man-ass, why’d I get none here?