Time loops are fun. Scratch that. They’re fun to think about and to watch as an audience in the comfort of an armchair, but they get old real fast for movie characters. Just ask public affairs officer-turned-time looper William Cage (Tom Cruise).
He’s an indolent former advertising agent who wants no part of the actual fighting that is taking place in Europe with a mysterious alien army of so-called Mimics. In his attempts to avoid combat, he ends up handcuffed, stripped of his rank of Major, and shipped off to a base at Heathrow. His worst nightmare is becoming reality as he is quickly thrown into the front lines where he is headed to face the enemy without any training. He is an absolute pitiful mess and his platoon mates spare him no mercy. After all, he’s a sniveling complainer.
He’s just as incompetent on the battlefield, and it becomes obvious he’s not going to last long (There’s potential for a very short movie). But before he gets killed by one of the aliens, its blood covers him. Did you get that? Although seemingly insignificant the whole film soon hinges on this fact.
Where does he wake up? No not hell or heaven, but back at Heathrow airport, handcuffs and all, with a superior yelling at him yet again. He’s back in this nightmare once more and it continues for the rest of the film.
Honestly, Edge of Tomorrow is an awful name for this film. The tagline Live. Die. Repeat. is a little closer. At least it gets at the heart of what this sci-fi tale is about. In a similar vein as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, Cage first gets acclimated to his new ability to experience a moment in time. He learns how to manipulate and navigate it to help himself, but as would be expected it gets tiresome and monotonous. With great power comes great responsibility, difficulty, and fatigue.
Live. Die. Repeat. Live. Die. Repeat. Slowly but surely Cage makes it farther and father against the mimics joining forces with famed soldier Rita Vrataski who is the poster girl for this noble war (Emily Blunt). Her early advice, “Come find me when you wake up,” is the strangest of greetings, but it starts the ball rolling. In a world where humanity is continually walking into an ambush, they are the only two who comprehend what is happening. Vrataski knows because she used to have Cage’s ability but lost it, so he is the new hope. Live. Die. Repeat. Live. Die. Repeat. She shapes him into a more efficient fighter over numerous time loops and gives him more insight into their enemy. He’s getting sick and tired of getting killed too. Live. Die. Repeat. etc.
He starts seeing visions of the Omega (the nucleus of the mimic), but they soon realize that the mimic is leading them on. Live. Die. Repeat. By this point, Cage has gone through so much with Vrataski and he cannot bear to see her continually dying. They finally locate the whereabouts of the Omega but after numerous failures, they finally run out of second chances. Cage loses his ability to loop, like Vrataski before him, needing a blood transfusion to pull through. Live or Die. No repeat this time.
Thus, begins their descent into the throes of their foe towards the Louvre where the Omega is. However, this time Cage convinces his squad to help and they prove their worth. An alpha comes after Cage and Vrataski as he blows up the Omega with a pack of grenades. There’s an instant of doubt, an uneasy feeling. Live. Die. Repeat…
Except now Major William Cage is back on the helicopter. No stripping of rank, no orders to the front lines, and with a newly weakened enemy. The nightmare is over so it seems and Cage is twice the man he was before. Only one thing matters. You guessed it. He goes looking for Sergeant Vrataski and sure enough there she is where he always found her before. She greets him with the same curtness as he smiles knowingly and most definitely with relief. For the last time or the first, depending on how you see it.
Quick cut to credits and “Love Me Again” by John Newman and it’s all over. It’s an ending that we hate as an audience, but it is the right one. As far as modern sci-fi films go, this one reminded me a bit of Source Code and Looper. Similarly, once you bought into the premise and invested in the setup, it proved to be a smart and entertaining ride.
Tom Cruise proved he can still do action movies and Emily Blunt carried the film with a toughness that would have made Ellen Ripley proud. This may be summer blockbuster material, but it’s also a worthwhile trip that takes us for a loop. Awful pun intended.