Edge of Tomorrow illustrates the bizarre economics of Hollywood by being a $100M grossing… flop. It suffered from, among other things, customer backlash against Tom Cruise, and a marketing effort so feeble (or was it febrile?) that they have gone two ways with the movie’s title, the bland Edge of Tomorrow which signposted the film’s dusty road to box-office death, and Live Die Repeat, which has sold it in DVD and Blu-Ray. We watched it on HBO, where it is presently in rotation, but you can find it at all the usual suspects.
The movie is set in an unspecified near future where a world has had to unite to fight against an alien race, the Mimics. (Unlike some other sci-fi xenospecies, the etymology of the enemy’s name is not logical or clear). The Mimics are smarter, somehow, and they can anticipate humans’ every move. The Earth armies are to invade the European continent from England in a battle loosely modeled, by the movie makers if not their fictional generals, on Operation Overlord. It is called Operation Downfall (the real name of the planned, never-executed, invasion of Honshu). Public Affairs officer Thomas Cage (Tom Cruise in a rather deep part for an actioner) blots his copybook, and will be participating in the invasion as a freshly minted, and combat-untrained, private. Cage sees horrible sights, never gets his gear working right, whacks a Mimic leader of some type through sheer happenstance — and is violently slain.
That’s where the movie really starts to pick up. Cage is somehow reliving the day, over, and over again, and unlike everyone else, knows he’s doing it. His attempts to call others’ attention to this Kafkaesque situation meet Kafkaesque rejection. Take that, Gregor Samsa.
It turns out, the enemy has the ability to stop time and revert to a status quo ante. When the war starts going against them, they go back and replay the scenario, with the knowledge of what their enemies will do. No wonder they win. And no human understands this but Cruise’s Cage. Or are there others?
The movie is based on a Japanese “light novel,” a uniquely Japanese kind of popular novella, named All You Need is Kill. The name alarmed Warner Brothers executives, who are still dithering about the name to this day.
Acting and Production
We get that people are weirded out by Cruise’s unconventional religion and its bizarre beliefs. However, those of us who attend a church that displays a dead guy on a stick, or that believe God settled his benevolence uniquely on one tribe of scrabbling desert nomads over all the others, probably ought to lighten up the stone-throwing. It’s his right to believe whatever it is he believes, and it’s your right to make fun of him, and even boycott his films, but if you do the last, you’re missing some good entertainment.
Cruise’s boyish athleticism — dang, the guy’s in his mid-fifties, and does at least some of his own stunts, no doubt to the irritation of his insurers — is exactly what the part needs. He might fall short as Jack Reacher, who’s supposed to be large and intimidating, but in this role where he’s an office-working officer thrust unwillingly into combat, he’s excellent. He clearly had fun in the role, and has been said to compare the many deaths of William Cage to those of Wile E. Coyote. (He doesn’t ever hold up an “Oh, no!” sign, but he has a way of expressing that with his face).
Other strong performances include Emily Blunt as Rita Vrtaski, the obligatory Amazon (and a very chaste source of sexual tension with Cruise, in a throwback to the sexual energy of classic movies of another day), and Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farrell.
The movie reminds one of video games, especially the old 1980s text variety, where The script is a stew of dozens of creatives’ efforts, and it shows: the ending in particular smells focus-grouped and unsatisfying.
Accuracy and Weapons
While the alien technology and weaponry is entirely fanciful (and can boil down to: “the bad guys get to use magic”), the near-future equipment of the humans is at least plausible. Forerunners of the combat exoskeletons have indeed been subject to experimentation, and the quad tiltrotor, while a Hollywood creation with too little lift for too much weight, and an illogically redundant use of both tail gate and belly doors, loosely resembles machines actually proposed by serious people.
The firearms are the least evolved thing in the movie. There is a recognizable Claymore mine (complete with the FRONT TOWARD ENEMY originally place there because of the near-illiteracy of many privates of the 1970s Army), and at one point, Cruise’s character specifies his ammunition requirements — in 5.56.
Sorry, but even in the fictional future, 6.5 fans can’t catch a break.
When Sergeant Vrtaski needs to “reset” Major-turned-Private Cage, she shoots him in the head with a SIG 226. (As a public service to all who might have a bad day and be tempted to blast the nearest actor, in the real world this does not reset time and give you a Mulligan on your day. Thank you).
No one involved with the film seems to have ever had any exposure to any actual military, so what we have here is Hollywood recycling Hollywood tropes about the military. This can be painful at times: discipline is enforced by brutality, grunts are as coarse and stupid as Danny Deever, generals are callous monsters who take the shortest of breaks from throwing lives away to use the power of their rank to advance personal vendettas. It’s the Star Trek Skin Deep Diversity World goes to war, and it hits many of Hollywood’s favorite themes, including the bumbling man/domineering women so beloved of commercials (and commercials are where this director came from).
It’s unfortunate that people coming out of this film will think that her fictional Rita Vrtaski character is what we get when we lower standards to rush women into infantry combat, and doubly unfortunate that those gullible people will then vote for politicians similarly unexposed to military life. (Women can and do serve with courage and commitment, and have for a very long time, but the Narrative demands that we must have Amazons on the screen. Trying to adapt that to real life is only going to get people, units, and possibly countries killed).
There’s a lot of CGI in the movie, and a lot of frenetic cutting, sometimes of the “just shake the camera so they can’t see what we just did, there” variety. At least it’s generally good CGI.
The bottom line
Edge of Tomorrow deserved better than its US box-office underperformance ($100M versus $178M costs), although it unquestionably became profitable in retrospect. slight elaboration. What you’ll get from it. Smart ass closing.
For more information
These sites relate to this particular film.
- Amazon.com DVD page:
Note that the digital copy included with Warner Brothers releases is now the crappy proprietary ultraviolet one, with sub-YouTube, not HD, quality, and does not work at all with IOS devices.
- IMDB page:
- IMFDB page:
- Rotten Tomatoes review page (they like it: 90% fresh):
- Wikipedia page: