‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Is Basically ‘Groundhog Day’ Without the Charm
Tom Cruise’s latest scifi epic is some tedious shit
About halfway through Edge of Tomorrow, our hero—played by Tom Cruise—is enjoying a drink in a bar. Fellow patrons argue over the alien invasion currently wrecking the planet. “It doesn’t matter,” Cruise interrupts.
He might as well be talking to himself. Cruise is trapped in the nightmare of his own pointless career.
Director Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow is an adaptation of a young-adult novel from Japan with the far superior title All You Need Is Kill. Cruise is Cage, a media relations expert for the military—yes, you read that right—who gets assigned to the front lines during the invasion from space.
Cage lands on the beach and immediately dies—then wakes up! It’s the day before the battle. He’s doomed to fight and die on some kind of time loop forever. It’s Groundhog Day—except somehow tedious despite all the aliens and explosions.
Why do the aliens want the planet? Why is Cage reliving the same day over and over again? How does he put a stop to it?
“It doesn’t matter.”
Look, Edge of Tomorrow is not good. The characters are flat, the action is sterile and the plot’s an unsatisfying mess—like all the Philip K. Dick you read in college pulped in a blender. If you must see it, take a cue from Cruise’s Cage. Sit back, ride it out. Catch a nap if you can. Tomorrow you won’t remember anything.
Emily Blunt plays Rita. She’s a battle-hardened soldier, the only one to ever beat the aliens in battle—because she’s in a time loop of her own. It’s up to Rita to harden the cowardly Cage into a true warrior.
The movie’s first half is a lot of fun. Cage gets splashed by alien blood and his face melts. Rita shoots Cage in the head after he breaks his leg during training. Armored vehicles run over him. He explodes, Rita rolls her eyes. Aliens eat Cage’s face. It’s sweet.
Then the plot kicks in.
Characters deliver convoluted monologues about time travel and fate. There’s a profoundly lame romantic subplot. Bill Paxton makes people eat playing cards. There’s a ton of exposition. “No,” I thought. “Don’t do this. Don’t try to explain anything. You’re ruining it!”
But the movie rolled on. Inexorably, like the downward trajectory of Cruise’s career.
Edge of Tomorrow misses a great opportunity. The loop of death wears on Cage. There’s one scene where he’s drunk before battle. He’s about to fight and die on a French beach for, like, the thousandth time. He rejects a helmet. He requests more ammunition. “There’s something wrong with your suit,” a soldier quips.
“There’s a dead man in it,” Cage says, finishing a familiar joke. This could have been a fantastic movie about the effects of prolonged combat on a soldier’s psyche. It could have been a stark reminder of the human cost of war.
But Edge of Tomorrow chickens out. Cage shakes off the PTSD and gets back to work.
This is a movie more about video games than war. Players can die over and over in games. Cage does the same. He’s learning the battlefield the same way a gamer learns the minutia of a level, dying a hundred times in the process.
Cruise’s character is a heavy-handed metaphor. Cage is in a mortal trap. He will keep dying until he takes responsibility for his destiny.
But I kept thinking about Cruise drinking alone in that bar. Telling the drunks—and the audience—that it doesn’t matter. Tom Cruise is destined to be in safe, teenager-friendly science fiction movies every summer until Xenu calls him home.