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Edge of Tomorrow •••1/2

Edge_of_Tomorrow_PosterStarring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Director: Doug Liman
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth
Action/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 113 minutes
Release Date: June 6, 2014

Cage: Single, N-P Moral, Pro (Enlightened Lone Hero)

Mimics: System, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Nature Pure Evil Villains)


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I would say ‘let’s review this movie’ but I’m pretty sure we’ve done it already.

It’s deja-vu all over again. Let’s recap Tom Cruise’s new film Edge of Tomorrow.

We meet Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), the spokesperson for the United Defense Forces, a combined military force that is attempting to repel an extraterrestrial invasion by a species known as the Mimics. Cage is sent to General Brigham’s office and is surprised when Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) orders him to participate as a soldier in a wide scale invasion of Mimic-occupied France. When Cage resists and attempts to blackmail Brigham, the General has him arrested and sent to an English base as a private about to be deployed to France.

Cage is outfitted with a mechanical exoskeleton and lifts off in a heli-transport with his new troop of soldiers bound for a D-Day sort of invasion. They crash land and are met with overwhelming forces – as if the Mimic enemy knew they were coming. Cage is all thumbs with his new gear and is quickly killed in combat.

He then immediately wakes up back at the base where he was shanghaied and relives the experience of meeting the soldiers, flying into battle, crashing, and getting killed. On his third incarnation, he meets up with Rita (Emily Blunt) – a soldier who is well-known as the fiercest of the Army’s warriors. He relates his experiences to her and she tells him to find her when he wakes up.

When he wakes up at the beginning of his day again, he seeks out Rita and relates his experiences to her. Much to his surprise, she believes him. She relates that she herself had been infected with the ability to “reset the day” but had lost it.  Rita tells him that he must go into training to help them find the “Omega” alien who, once killed, will destroy the enemy and save the Earth.

Greg, I have a confession to make. I’m a sucker for time travel movies, especially ones that are smartly made and contain all the elements of a good hero story. One of my criticisms of previous Tom Cruise movies has been that his characters rarely show any change or growth. Because Edge of Tomorrow is one of those repeating time-loop movies, much like Groundhog Day, William Cage absolutely must change in order to break the temporal cycle. So we’re given a satisfying story of personal growth that redeems not only the character but saves the world as well.

Cage starts out a coward and a fool. We don’t like him very much, and when we learn that he is squeamish it doesn’t seem likely he can survive countless blood-soaked battles with the Mimics. Dire circumstances, however, gradually transform Cage into an invincible warrior. What we have is a dark Groundhog Day on steroids, a film that works on many different levels, including the all-important emotional level.

Scott, I’m glad you mentioned Groundhog Day because that is the criticism I have of Edge of Tomorrow. It takes the central idea of Bill Murray’s film and applies it to war. Since Groundhog Day is such a well-known film, the filmmakers must offer something above and beyond what we already know must happen. We already know that the hero will recycle through his life experiences and learn and relearn lessons until he becomes proficient. Edge does offer one new thread which is the ability for the hero to lose the gift of time travel. However, once this fact is mentioned in the story, you know there has to come a point in the film where the hero must lose the power. It made Edge rather predictable.

I’ll agree with you on Cage’s growth in this film. He starts out as a wimp and a coward and when he finds himself in the predicament of reliving his life over again daily. We see him become a better man. He comes to care for his platoon-mates and falls in love with Rita, the beautiful war veteran. By the end of the film we are treated to a redefined man, one we hardly recognize.

Another difference between this film and Groundhog Day centers on what has to happen for the hero to escape from the time loop. Bill Murray’s character has to become a good man, but Tom Cruise’s character must do more than just change his nature; he must also destroy the Omega. In both Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, a woman is the central instrument of the man’s change. I think it’s no coincidence that the woman’s name is Rita in both movies.

The villains in Edge of Tomorrow — the Mimics — are somewhat novel in both their appearance and in their behavioral characteristics. The creatures are a strange spider-reptile hybrid that moves at hyper-speed. They also have the ability to use time travel to anticipate their enemy’s next moves. The Mimics are also disappointing in some ways, and I’ll let you, Greg, describe why this is the case.

Thanks, Scott. Apparently the Mimics suffer the same malady that aliens from across time and space suffer from – that of being controlled by a singular, central mind. When Cage destroys the “Omega” beast, all the “Alpha” and “Drone” aliens also stop working. This is a tired plot device that we’ve seen in such movies as Independence Day, Divergent, RoboCop, and Transcendence, just to name a few.

Edge of Tomorrow recycles a few old ideas but offers two rock-solid hours of fun and adventure. Tom Cruise turns in one of his best performances in years here, and for a refreshing change he plays a character who evolves throughout the course of the film. Because the movie is very well done and because I love sci-fi stories that utilize time travel effectively, I’m happy to award Edge of Tomorrow 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero story in this film is appealing on several levels. Cage embarks on a dangerous journey in an unfamiliar world, and to achieve his mission he must undergo a transformation that is satisfying to watch. We’re treated to several key features of the hero’s journey, such as Cage’s encounter with Rita, a remarkably strong female character who plays a mentoring role in helping Cage discover his missing inner quality. Rita is the key to Cage’s redemption and also steals his heart. In my view William Cage is a worthy hero who deserves a rating of 4 out of 5 Heroes.

As you point out, Greg, the two formidable forces that Cage must overcome are the Mimics and his own weakness of character. There are also a few other oppositional characters who get in Cage’s way, such as General Brigham and Sergeant Farrell. Pardon the pun, but the Mimics unfortunately do mimic prior sci-fi extra-terrestrials. But the good news is that the Mimics also have a unique look and intriguing time-shifting abilities. Overall, the villainous components of this movie are used to great effect, leading me to conclude that Edge of Tomorrow deserves a strong rating of 4 Villains out of 5.

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I really hate to say this, but I didn’t have the same impression of this movie as you did, Scott. The graphics and battle scenes are definitely worth the price of admission. But Edge of Tomorrow borrowed so many plot devices from other movies that I can only give it 3 out of 5 Reels.

Cage as the hero undergoes a good transformation which is gradual and believable (in the context of the sci/fi elements). But we’ve seen this done before exceedingly well in Groundhog Day. One redeeming element that I found in Edge of Tomorrow was Emily Blunt as a completely believable female warrior. We don’t see that everyday. Still, I can only give Tom Cruise’s character 3 out of 5 Heroes.

Finally, we’re so far apart on the villains here. The Mimics are such a retread from other movies and have so little to offer other than being evil, mindless, bad guys that I can’t give them such a lofty score as you did. I’ll grant you that there are other oppositional forces in play, but in my mind, it’s the Mimics who are the main villains and they simply don’t measure up to other fine villains we’ve seen this year (witness The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past). I give the Mimics just 1 Villain out of 5.

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