Last night I watched the Tom Cruise movie “Edge of Tomorrow.” The first thing that strikes me is that it is a sort of mixture of things.
First off, it’s a mil sci-fi movie. It tells the story of aliens invading and battling humans. Almost the entire movie takes place within the confines of a single battlefield. And because it’s a big budget movie with a big star that part is done rather professionally. The special effects and sets are very good looking. The action takes place in England and France and Germany so there is the interest of seeing The Louvre and London engulfed in military paraphernalia and smashed by battle. So, there’s all that.
Next, it’s a time travel story. The gimmick is that Tom Cruise has been caught up in the gears of the aliens’ ability to alter the future. Because of a chain of events involving his lucky killing of a high level alien, Cruise is effected in such a way that every time he gets killed in battle, it resets time back to the start of the day of the battle he’s in. But when he returns to that day he remembers each of these past lives. It’s sort of like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog’s Day. So, even though he’s a complete neophyte to combat, he can learn from what happened to him on the previous incarnations. Comically, after countless iterations he can effortlessly step through the battlefield performing a choreographed dance with death. Of course, this means to keep advancing his progress on the battlefield he has to keep dying over and over again.
So, in a way, it’s also a metaphor for, or even a parody of someone playing a first-person shooter video game. You keep playing the game and increasing your knowledge and skills. You also have to die over and over and over. And for anyone who has spent a lot of time playing one particular game you understand the psychologically painful experience of building up the necessary muscle memory and rote memorization of the endless sequences of motions and thought processes needed to wend your way to the next level. That’s the feel this movie provides.
I’ll have to say it’s a mixed experience. It’s both stimulating to sense the iterative advancement and at the same time irritating. There’s one particular sequence that occurs almost endlessly during the movie. It’s when he’s awakened by a sergeant screaming abuse into his face. It must happen at least two dozen times. By the end of the movie I’m genuinely hoping Cruise just clocks him in the face, just to shut him up.
So, does the movie work? Yes, it does. The initial introduction to Cruise’s character presents him as an unlikeable jerk. By the end of the movie he has had to grow. There’s even, believe it or not, the elements of a love story in the tale. And, Lord help me, I know how ridiculous that seems in the context of a war movie.
Who is this movie for? If you’re a Tom Cruise fan and you liked him in War of the Worlds and Minority Report you’ll probably like this movie a lot. If you’re a mil sci-fi fan I think you’ll probably enjoy it. If you don’t like science fiction or war movies you will hate this. And if you’re neutral on Tom Cruise, sci-fi and war movies I think it’s 50/50. It’s a good sci-fi movie and provides solid entertainment. But it isn’t “Gone with the Wind” so if you’re looking for highly cerebral or morally meaningful move on.