Halo + “Groundhog’s Day” = “Edge of Tomorrow”: A Review

Last year, when Edge of Tomorrow was released in theaters, I remember being vaguely aware of it. I tried to get a friend or two to accompany me to one of the few showtimes left, but nothing came of it. I resigned myself to seeing it at some point. I knew it was supposed to be an interesting piece of science fiction action, and that meant that it would cross my plate eventually. I waited far too long, because this movie is fantastic.

Edge of Tomorrow is what any action sci-fi movie wishes it could be: daring, innovative with its storytelling, funny, and with recognizable stars completely kicking ass (at least, when not being killed by aliens or each other – more on that soon). No popcorn superhero action movie has approached all of these successes at once, but since they were comfortable and employed recognizable characters, viewers flocked. Hopefully, with this review, I can help a few more find True North.

Edge of Tomorrow opens en media res with an alien invasion underway. Shades of Paul Verhoeven glitter as we see news coverage propagandizing the war. Losses pile up and are under-reported or excused while the lone victory is blazoned across all screens and heroes are aggrandized. Tom Cruise plays Cage, the head of Military Media Personnel, and sings the praises of emerging heroes and innovative technologies. As a P.R. stunt, Cage’s general decides to transfer him to the front lines of tomorrow’s massive invasion of France in order to document the glorious victory of humankind.

But Cage is a coward.

He hems and haws, bargains, bribes and blackmails, but fails to weasel his way out of this assignment, so he is violently arrested and enlisted in the infantry. He awakens from his arrest on a pile of duffel bags and is shown to J Company, where he must fight. He isn’t made for battle, but that matters little as the entire offensive is anticipated by the aliens (called mimics). Despite bungling around the battlefield, unable to disengage the safety on his weapon, he manages to kill a mimic foot soldier. This draws the attention of a more menacing commanding officer. In a last-ditch effort, Cage deploys a claymore mine as the alien engulfs him. We see Cage’s torn corpse covered in the mimic’s blood. Jump cut: Cage is jarred awake back on the duffel bags.

This our “I’ve Got You, Babe”. As Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, Cage is set to re-live this day from this point, apparently triggered by his death. He spends his first few tries attempting to convince anyone that he isn’t insane, but it is to no avail. Eventually, he focuses his efforts on improving his chances in battle, and the endless re-tries allow him to inch his way towards the super-soldier Rita, played by Emily Blunt. As soon as she sees the way he moves, she has a simple message for him: find me before the battle, what’s happened to you happened to me, too. With that, the plot can take direction, as we learn why Cage has be gifted this talent, and how best to take advantage of it to win the war.

Edge of Tomorrow uses this peculiar plot element to completely dictate the structure of the film. Comedy, drama, and even real danger are all generated from Cage’s deaths and re-awakenings. In addition, it is used to created a bizarre chronology. Sometimes the audience understands that something is happening a second time (because we saw it before), but when we see new things it is not altogether clear that this is the first time that Cage has seen them. The film takes advantage of this trick to great dramatic effect, and even uses it to further the plot in some instances.

There are too many carefully chosen homages, references, and symbols to write Edge of Tomorrow off as a typical science fiction action blockbuster, but mostly the movie is just so damn fun. Edge of Tomorrow definitely has much to say about the inefficiency of the chain of command, the danger of media hype and propaganda, and the endless horrors of war. This movie deserves more than it received upon its release. It was poorly marketed (perhaps legendarily so – this could be a post on its own, in fact) and overlooked amid a sea of more comfortable, linear, and less-challenging blockbusters. Now, as it is released to home video and streaming services, Edge of Tomorrow deserves to hit its own reset button and start the battle for recognition anew.

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