113 Minutes, Pg-13
Fair Value of Edge of Tomorrow: $6.00. Imagine Groundhog Day without the humor, romance, or humanity. If you like watching cutscenes from first person shooters, but hate actually playing first person shooters, this film is for you.
What if Groundhog Day was D-Day? That’s pretty much the question of Tom Cruise’s 2014 summer vehicle. What if, instead of being forced to endlessly relive a boring, miserable day, you instead had to relive a day of pure adrenaline hell?
Tom Cruise plays Bill Cage, an advertising executive turned military officer. He’s the definition of an REMF- Rear Echelon Mother Fucker, glibly selling the war against the alien invaders to young farmboys. Until he pisses off his CO, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), and gets railroaded into deployment to the front lines. In this film, cowards really do die a thousand deaths, until they develop the familiarity to be able to effortlessly avoid every coming blow.
The enemies are called the mimics, apparently because they mimic the hyperkinetic lava tumbleweeds so common to earth’s ecology. It’s a pretty generic alien genocide machine. Nonetheless, ol’ Maverick gets good enough to get the attention of Rita (Emily Blunt), the most heavily decorated soldier of the human forces. She too, has been experiencing a sense of deja vu.
The Samsara of Blizzard Games: There are few hells as singular as being the protagonist of a first person shooter. Imagine it, for a second: a continuous loop of carnage against implacable homicidal opponents, culminating only in violent death- for yourself and for others, varying only in the sequence of murder. This movie is novel in being the first insight into the madness that would be living in such a continuity.
The 70th Anniversary of Normandy Cliches: OK, Brendan Gleeson. You have the command of the collective forces of the nations of mankind. You have power armor, VTOL transports, 10s of millions of soldiers. AND YOU ARE CHOOSING TO DO A FUCKING RE-ENACTMENT OF OMAHA BEACH? WTF? Your character isn’t even American! I’ll tell you why the invasion goes wrong, it’s nothing to do with the aliens. It has everything to do with a CO that’s a drunken slob who stills thinks in terms of 1940s warfare. Why doesn’t Tom Cruise just shoot Brendan Gleeson? It would do just as much good as going on a goose chase for the Alien central intelligence – it seems that in the decades of cinematic science fiction, the one thing that we will never encounter is an alien foe that comprehends the concept of redundant infrastructure.
Let me say this: In video games, Normandy beach action sequences were a tired cliche in 2004. To say nothing of today. Also, I’m getting really tired of un-armored exoskeletons- from Matrix Reloaded to Elysium, Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of people running around in what are basically militarized forklift suits. The thing about Iron Man is that Tony Stark is actually smart enough to bother with protecting his soft fleshy bits.
There isn’t an action set piece in this film that feels new or breath-taking. Indeed, the repetition of the protagonist seeps a dullness into the film- every step is choreographed, rehearsed, committed with the passion of a puppet. Ethan Hunt (of Mission Impossible) was compelling because his actions felt improvised, desperate. The audience feels no empathy for the characters because death has no meaning in this film, other than to push the reset button.
WARNING- YOU ARE ENTERING SPOILERLAND
STUPID MAGIC ROBOT BLOOD: Ok, here’s the thing: if getting a transfusion of fluids from the Alpha Mimics gives you the ability to hit the reset button on the time-stream, why doesn’t Rita or Cage think to get more soldiers exposed to the conditions that gave them superpowers? Instead of hunting across France to find the Mother Brain, why not just gradually repeat events until you’ve built up a platoon, or even an entire division, of battle hardened veterans like yourselves?
War is Hell, but apparently not traumatic? I am inclined to think that violent death might be a smidge traumatizing for most folks. In our world, soldiers can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome from one fire-fight. Do you know what happens to people that are continually immersed in combat for a long enough period? They tend to either die of shock or become catatonic. Bill Murray bugged out in Groundhog Day, but I guess that exorcising your thetans means Tom Cruise is made of sterner stuff.
The Good Guys Didn’t Actually Win: Ok, so the supreme gimmick of the Mimic Omega is that it resets the time stream to 24 hours previously every time that it decides the battle is not going sufficiently well for Team Shrapnel Tumbleweed. And we also learn that the aliens like to use a lot of strategic and tactical deception and misdirection- sorry Mario, but your end-boss is in another castle! I think the ending is fake- a fake victory to lull humanity into a false sense of security, just like the earlier Battle of Verdun that was alluded to. Why does Cage time-jump to the moment of his arrival in the UK, rather than to the boot-camp? That indicates that he jumps more than 24 hours back in time. Who kills the Omega in this timeline? Wouldn’t he have to kill it over again?
At the end of the day, this movie shows us what it’s like to be tom cruise- an endless, ever interchangeable succession of generic American protagonists, baffled at the great conspiracies surrounding them, waiting to dodge the next whirling piece of CGI. What a strange, sad, middling samsara that must be.