In 2014, stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt shared the screen together in the sci-fi movie, Edge of tomorrow. It was directed by Doug Liman, who is known for building well-made action films such as Bourne’s identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. While Liman’s feature film wasn’t necessarily a huge box office success, it still made a lot of money around the world and received overly positive critical reviews. However, the film deserves a lot more respect as it provided a more complex protagonist for Cruise, a strong female character for Blunt, and it’s a well-choreographed action flick that cleverly combines time loops and war between humans and machines.
Edge of tomorrow is a science fiction story based on the Japanese novel, all you need is to kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Liman’s film is one of many Hollywood feature films adapted from Japanese material. that of Sergio Léone a handful of dollars, the first film in The unnamed man western trilogy, inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film, Yojimbo. In both films, the protagonist is the tough hero pitted against two rival families at war.
In Liman’s feature film, US Army Major William Cage (Cruise) is the protagonist caught between a military coalition called the United Defense Force (UDF) and a swarm of aliens called “Mimics”. Cage, despite his rank, is only a public affairs officer with little to no military combat experience. Cage remains stunned when a commanding general orders him to join J-Squad, one of the many UDF units that will invade France in order to launch an attack against the deadly alien creatures.
The invasion in France ends up becoming a suicide mission as a frightened Cage and the whole J-Squad are massacred by the imitators. However, after blowing up with one of the most powerful Alpha Aliens, Cage wakes up in the same place he ended up before meeting the J-Squad. The whole movie revolves around Cage’s death over and over and then reliving the same time loop over and over again. However, every time Cage is resurrected, he gets better in combat and watches everyone’s movements, especially Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Blunt).
Rita is the most skilled fighter in the UDF and looks like a samurai when she kills machines with a big sword. She grows up trusting Cage as she has experienced time loops as well. Thanks to Rita, Cage is able to become a more experienced soldier, and in return, Cage is able to guide Rita by explaining to her how the UDF and the machines work in their time loop. Their camaraderie grows even more when they attempt to kill the Omega (the main source of the Mimics), which would end the war.
Edge of tomorrow is effective in terms of a high element of danger involving aliens. Cruise is well known for portraying strong, highly skilled, and hard to beat guys like Ethan Hunt in the Impossible mission franchise or Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun. However, Cruise’s protagonist in Liman’s sci-fi film is slightly different in that Cage is a scared and vulnerable character who has no experience in combat. In the opening of the film, Cage looks confident on television when he tells reporters that the UDF is a strong military presence that can defeat the Mimics, but when Cage meets General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), they all know the two that many soldiers will inevitably die, and Cage expresses his immense fear of war and bloodshed when the general tells him he’s going to fight with a squad in France.
Cage’s transition from a scared and cowardly army major to a strong, determined soldier is compelling because he knows he has been given the opportunity to save the world. Of course, if there was no time loop, there would be no hope in Cage’s mission, and his death would have been immediate and permanent. This makes Cage very lucky, but also more aware of his chances of success, especially in ending the war and saving thousands of soldiers and innocent lives.
Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski looks like other fierce and powerful female characters who aren’t very often portrayed in sci-fi movies, like Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in the Extraterrestrial series, or Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in The Terminator movie theater. Rita speaks sternly when confronting Cage or other troops, and fights skillfully in combat, whether she is using a sword or large automatic weapons. Cage and Rita, along with all other UDF soldiers, must carry heavy metal exoskeletons containing guns and rocket launchers.
While most of the movie is intense and action-packed, there are some fun moments between the protagonists, especially when Rita has to “kill” Cage multiple times when he fails or is seriously injured. Cage’s repeated time loop is similar to someone playing a video game, where the player fights, dies, and then has to restart the level. Cage also has some comedic showdowns with Master Sgt. Farell (the late great Bill Paxton) and the J-Squad, especially when Cage tells them their names and what they’re going to say or do next.
Edge of tomorrow is an example of a cleverly crafted feature that borrows familiar elements from the sci-fi genre, but is even better thanks to vulnerable but courageous characters, intense action sequences, and the concept of a time loop. Tom Cruise and Doug Liman also make a great team, as they would continue to do the 2017 biopic. American manufacturing, another film in which Cruise portrays a flawed and complicated protagonist, Barry Seal, who is overwhelmed by working for the CIA, selling drugs to dangerous cartels. Maybe a Edge of tomorrow following is next in line.
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