Edge of Tomorrow (PG-13)
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This came out in 2014, but I didn't see it until 2017. It's based on a Japanese light novel called "All You Need Is Kill," which I haven't read. Anyway, I want to mention that the movie's tagline, "Live. Die. Repeat." features prominently in the original advertising, like the movie poster and whatnot. But on the DVD I got, it goes way beyond prominent, to the point that one couldn't be blamed for assuming that was the actual title of the movie. (In fact, it's possible it was actually retitled "Live.Die.Repeat./Edge of Tomorrow" for the DVD release. I'm not sure, but I'd rather think not, because that would be just ridiculous.) And of course, it is pretty much impossible to say anything about the movie without comparing it to Groundhog Day, at least in passing. So, now that I've gotten that out of the way, on with the review.
In 2015, alien invaders called Mimics began waging war against Earth. The movie is set five years later, when the Mimics control pretty much all of mainland Europe. Humanity has only had one victory against them, at Verdun, France. And that victory was thanks pretty much entirely to Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), which earned her a couple of nicknames. (One is "the Angel of Verdun"; the other one I'd rather not repeat.) Anyway, the United Defense Force is planning a major offensive against the Mimics, called Operation Downfall. (Which, not incidentally, was named after a planned operation from World War II, which never happened. And in fact, this movie probably has numerous allusions to aspects of that war, which I'm sure is all very interesting, though personally I prefer to just take the movie at face value. Not that I don't, on some level, appreciate the writers' efforts to work historical parallels into the story.) Before the operation begins, an American major named Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) is sent to London, where he meets General Brigham, under whose command he has been placed. At first, Cage believes he is there to do what he's always done: public relations. However, Brigham informs him he's going to be sent to the front lines, and take part in the battle. Having no combat experience, Cage is of course scared, and tries to get out of it. But Brigham has him arrested and tasered.
Cage later wakes up at Heathrow Airport, the day before Operation Downfall, where he meets Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton). Farell had been given a letter about Cage, claiming he is a private and a deserter, who had been impersonating an officer. (I assume Farell believes that's all true, but I suppose he could have just been going along with the General's orders.) Cage is assigned to J Squad, who are supposed to train him for the next day's battle. However, it doesn't seem like they teach him anything at all, not even how to turn off the safety on his Combat Jacket's weaponry. (Oh yeah, the soldiers all wear these Jackets, which are mechanized exoskeleton things.) Then, on the way to the battle front, the drop ships transporting the troops get hit by enemy fire, so a lot of people die before the battle was even supposed to begin. But some people, including Cage, do manage to make it to the ground and start fighting the Mimics. (And I should say that the Mimics are either mostly or entirely CGI, I think. They look hella cool and scary and badass, but it's hard to get a very clear idea of what they look like, because they're fairly amorphous and move incredibly fast.) Anyway, Cage struggles for awhile to figure out how to disengage his safety, while running around the battlefield with people dying all around him. Finally he does manage to kill a couple of Mimics, the latter of which is different from any he's seen before. After blowing it up, some of its blood gets in his system, and he dies.
Then he wakes up back at Heathrow, the day before. The day repeats itself exactly as it was the first time, but of course he can't convince anyone of what's going on, much less warn them that the Mimics know they'll be coming the next day, and be prepared for the attack. Beyond this point, I don't want to reveal too many details, but there are a few things I need to say. Of course he has to go into battle again, and of course he dies again, and of course he wakes up and repeats the previous day again. And just like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, he does manage to learn some things over the course of many, many repeats of those two days. (Oh yeah, unlike Phil, Cage doesn't just get one day. He gets however long it takes until he dies, whereas Phil got either until he died or... until the alarm clock went off in the morning.) Luckily, we don't have to see everything happen over and over again, we just get the salient bits that move the story forward. I'm sure it'd be horribly boring to have to see everything, and it would probably take months to watch, instead of a couple of hours. Even so, I felt bad for Cage, just thinking about how much time he had to repeat, day after day after day. And how even when he learns something that will help him survive a bit longer (or later, learns things that help him do something totally different), he'll still have to do it all over again. And again. And again, ad nauseam. So glad I didn't have to see it. Anyway, by memorizing things like where Mimics will be at any particular moment of the battle, he figures out how to avoid them and shoot them, so that he appears to be a very skilled badass soldier. Though even if he lives a little longer each time, he always dies eventually. On one of his repetitions of the day, he meets Rita Vrataski on the battlefield, and she realizes what's happening to him. So she tells him to come find her when he wakes up.
He does so, though it takes at least a couple of tries (and at least one death) before he gets to her, the day before the battle. And when he tells her that she had told him (tomorrow) to find her, she takes him to an associate of hers, Dr. Carter, an expert in Mimic biology who had been disgraced and fired for sharing some of his ideas about the aliens, which seemed crazy. There are actually three types of Mimics: the basic soldiers, and the Alphas that control them and have like a psychic connection to the "brain" of the aliens, a single Mimic called the Omega. When one of the Alphas is killed, the Omega can reset the day, learning from past experience just as Cage has been doing. This is how they've been winning every battle for the past five years. But when a human gets Alpha blood inside him (or her), they gain the unconscious ability to reset the day, when they die. This had happened to Vrataski before, and it was how she became a hero at Verdun. However, in a later battle, she had been injured but didn't die, and was given a blood transfusion, which removed the reset ability from her system. Still, she had already gone through quite a few resets before that happened, which I assume is how she became such a badass fighter who doesn't necessarily even need the advantage that the reset gave her (not that she doesn't miss it). So, she begins training Cage. She and Carter also tell him about visions she had started getting of the Omega, shortly before she lost the ability. Now they want him to make sure he retains the ability long enough to start getting the visions himself, so they can find and kill the Omega, which is the only way humanity will ever win the war.
Well, Cage and Vrataski go through a lot, over the course of many resets of the timeline. And again, I'm glad we don't have to see all that, with Cage having to repeatedly get away from his own squad to find her and reintroduce himself to her and Dr. Carter, and continually make adjustments to their plan with each reset. (Which I think in a way is kind of like making a stop-motion animated film. If the animator had to die every time they made a minor adjustment to the position of the clay figures, before making the next adjustment.) Anyway, I don't want to reveal all the different alterations to their plans, but I will say that ultimately humanity wins the war.
I will say this: the end of the movie kind of bothers me. I mean, I liked it... but I don't think it made any sense, even within the context of suspension of disbelief about the whole premise of the movie. I can accept everything that happened up until the final time Cage woke up. I was really happy about what happened at that point, but I couldn't really believe in it. That being said, I loved the very last moment of the film, before the credits rolled. And... well, I thought the whole movie was pretty great. Lots of cool action, some decent humor and drama, and a really interesting sci-fi concept (final scene notwithstanding). And I guess I don't know what else to tell you, except that if I'd been in Cage's shoes, I would have gotten myself killed long before gaining the reset ability. Like, as soon as I arrived at Heathrow on the first day, I would have probably started fighting Farell and any other soldiers until they had no choice but to kill me. But whatevs. And... I hope I'm not forgetting anything else I meant to say.