If nothing else, Edge of Tomorrow perfectly captures what it would be like to be a self-aware hero trapped inside a video game fighting a level he can’t beat.
The film takes a Groundhog Day approach to sci-fi, telling the story of Cage (Tom Cruise), a solider in a futuristic war against an alien race who finds himself reliving the same battle over and over again, each time he and his entire platoon are slaughtered by their alien foes. To win the battle, he must enlist the help of Rita (Emily Blunt) – yes, that’s right, the female lead even shares a name with Andy McDowell’s character in Groundhog Day – a fellow soldier who was once trapped inside a different day and thus is the only person who can help him navigate what is happening to him. (The outside world has no idea she was trapped inside a day once. She is just viewed as a war hero for inexplicably winning a similar battle against the odds.)
Many have tried to recapture the magic of Groundhog Day, only to fall short. The (very Buddhist) conceit of having your protagonist trapped inside the same day over and over again seems like fertile soil, but it’s very difficult to do it right, especially when the classic Bill Murray film did it so perfectly.
Edge of Tomorrow has mixed results with the gimmick. At times, it uses it very well, particularly in the moments where Cage uses the knowledge gained from his unique circumstances in order to expertly solve complex problems. Also, Rita’s understanding of Cage’s predicament, and willingness to let him die since he can just start over the next day, is used to great comedic effect.
Where the film struggles though is in its adherence to its own rules. Particularly, things get cloudy when it attempts to explain why Cage is stuck in the same day, something Groundhog Day wisely avoided. In Edge of Tomorrow, it’s explained that reliving the same day is a power the aliens have and that both Rita and Cage tap into that power by absorbing some of the creatures’ blood.
That raises a ton of questions. If the aliens have this power, why aren’t they altering their behavior the way Cage does, since they should be reliving the same day as well? And if all it takes is getting some of their blood on you, shouldn’t this phenomenon be happening to a lot more soldiers? And why aren’t scientists studying this to unlock this magical deus ex machina?
Even more frustrating is the fact that the film abandons the “endless cycle” gimmick for the film’s final act, using a flimsy excuse to explain why Cage no longer has the power. What’s even worse is that it happens to him before the big battle with the aliens that he’s relived countless times already, so in theory he could just shoot another alien, bathe in its blood and get this magical power back. But, of course, the writers wanted to add tension to the final battle by making it “for keeps,” so they just abandoned the one thing that set the movie apart from other sci-fi epics.
The film’s climax has its own collection of logic flaws, as well, which are numerous and impossible to discuss without getting too spoilery. The actual resolution to the film is particularly forced and made me roll my eyes at its nonsensical explanation.
It’s possible that you may be able to overlook these problems with the script, but I could not. Films establish their own internal logic and when they can’t stick to the rules they established, it becomes hard for me to let that stuff go. So what could have been a fun action film instead became a frustrating experience that caused me to continually shake my head and throw up my hands in frustration.
If you aren’t troubled by convoluted writing, I do recommend giving the film a try. Crusie and Blunt are both quite good in it and visually it is something to behold.
I just wish the writers were trapped in the same day over and over again until they produced a script that actually made sense.