In reading my friend Cameron’s review of Palm Springs, I was reminded of a little mentioned favorite of mine titled Edge of Tomorrow (2014). It is kind of strange to think that this movie is not remembered more frequently. If nothing else, its two main characters, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) and Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), had the star power of A-List Hollywood celebrities in Cruise and Blunt. Maybe critics were annoyed by the way the story is presented, with its Groundhog Day (1993) style looping of the same day? Even if it is somewhat derivative of the Bill Murray classic, it is worth seeing how this action film uses the ability to repeat the same day over and over again to save humanity.
When we first meet Edge of Tomorrow‘s main protagonist, Cage is far from the hero that he is to become. As a representative of the United Defense Forces (UDF)–an army of unified militaries from around the world–to go on news programs, his job is to sell the war ongoing against an alien invasion. He is sent to London where the UDF is preparing a D-Day-esque invasion in the hopes of taking back the whole of Europe from the extra-terrestrial horde. After meeting with General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), commander of the planned attack, Cage is arrested and essentially kidnapped into the regular infantry about to cross the English Channel. This is not the most comfortable position for him to be in as he is a coward. As soon as he awakes on the base, he begins pleading with anyone who will listen to him that he is not supposed to be in this position. He is ignored. During the battle the following day, he manages to kill a special Mimic (the name given to the aliens) known as an Alpha, but the resulting explosion results in his own death. Yet the Alpha’s blood is absorbed by Cage as he lays dying, and when he comes to he is back at the previous day waking up on the base. After repeating this process one more time, he realizes that he is replaying the same day every time he expires. Eventually, he decides to find the famous “Angel of Verdun,” Vrataski, believing the legendary warrior could help him to have more of an impact on the fight. As it turns out, she is the only one to understand what is going on with him because she once had the same power, but lost it after being wounded and given a blood transfusion. Together, they plot a way off the bloody beach in the hopes of making it inland to destroy the Omega, the brain of the Mimics’ hive mind. Though Cage eventually loses his ability to reset the day, when they finally figure out the Omega’s location under the Louvre, they decide to mount a raid anyway. Making it through Mimic barricades, Cage is finally killed just as he lands a load of grenades on the surface of the alien brain. What saves him is the blood from the resulting explosion, allowing him to reset the day. The fact that Cage now has the Mimics’ ultimate power is enough to convince them to give up.
Even if you are not the biggest fan of science fiction or action films, Cage’s character arc makes Edge of Tomorrow worth a view. In other reviews I have done, particularly of films where characters lay down their lives for their friends, I have discussed at length how such sacrifices are a Christian virtue. Jesus himself says that there is no higher ideal. But that is far from Cage’s thoughts at the beginning of the film. Through a great deal of pain and agony, he learns the value of duty and sacrifice. His principle teacher of this ideal is Vrataski. As a soldier, she is willing to continue to potentially give her life for the cause of humanity despite knowing it was likely to result in her demise and she could do nothing about it without the capacity to begin the day anew. At first, Cage cannot wrap his head around such dedication. It is her example, and his experience with the awful determination of the Mimic, that brings about his attitude change. Thus when it comes time to make the final assault on the Omega, he goes knowing that he might not wake up again.
I really have no complaints about Edge of Tomorrow, save for one: I never understood why General Brigham is so keen on making Cage fight. It is never explained, but nor is it a huge detail. It is rated PG-13, and while violent, it is never too over-the-top, but is something on par with other alien invasion movies you might have seen. Despite the seriousness of the situation, there is some levity to the story as well. It is never fun to see people die, but the understanding here is there that everything would start over once Cage died. Thus the stakes were lowered somewhat, and there are some fun ways the filmmakers come up with for offing the main character. All-in-all, a solid movie.