I think Edge Of Tomorrow is one of the best films of the year. It's not just edge of your seat nail biting entertainment. You'll also think about it when it's over, which is saying a lot in the flash paper world of big movie entertainment where stories are made to go in one eye out the other. Not gimmicky or derivative, it's actually about something we've lost touch with in American culture; perseverance in the face of despair. It's something the audience certainly knows about. The economy is fostering it upon 99 percent of us every day.
Every 10 years or so Hollywood seems to make a repeating day movie. I should know, I was part of one of the cycles. So I know how hard it is to do it well. The first one is an Oscar nominated short in 1989 titled 12:01 PM, directed by Jonathan Heap, widely regarded as one of the best short films ever made. I adapted that short into a feature film for New Line Cinema, called 12:01, which was scuttled when it was discovered Ground Hog Day was already in pre-production. Then of course there was Ground Hog's Day. Then we came back to life as a film starring Jonathan Silverman and Martin Landau. Ten years later there was Run Lola Run, where Lola repeats the day three times and saves the man she loves. The film was so inventive it brought star Franka Potente and director Tom Tykwer to international acclaim. About ten years later it was Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal where the repeating cycle was 8 minutes and though intricately spun it didn't find it's way into wide recognition.
Edge of Tomorrow is cut from that same cloth. Trapped in a repeating day a shallow self serving hero William Cage (Tom Cruise) is faced with a brutal comeuppance for his selfish ways. I'm a Tom Cruise fan and think he's upped his game in his many outings as he matures as a performer. He brings many layers to this one, not the least of which is his lighthearted ability to bring a comedic spin, seemingly impossibly, to his multiple assassinations by his mentor and love interest, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) during his training sequence. Bill Paxton as a fierce platoon commander and Brendan Gleeson as General of United Earth Forces, not to mention the rag tag squad Cruise is hung out to dry with round out the excellent cast.
The cleverness of the movie is partly that we have to experience a new alien invasion threat. A tall order that director Doug Liman and the art department succeed at alarmingly well. The second problem, any writer can tell you, is having to personalize the movie in Cage's crushing Kafkaesque entrapment. He dies on an Omaha-like beach so many times you begin to become convinced it's actually happening. And once he gets past that soul crushing labyrinthine gauntlet things get really hard. The man who only had himself to live for, starts to live for someone else and that begins to change who he is. Adapted from a book there are three credited screenwriters including Christopher Mcquarrie, hat's off to them all.
Changing one's pattern is the single hardest thing a person can do, a teacher of mine once told me. I believe it to be true. Try stopping eating sugar, or quit smoking or whatever your pattern is that you want to change.
This film has the unusual opportunity to show the crushing consequences of a man who can't change his patterns, the painful fallout of which is to be brutally extinguished constantly. His only hope is to change. Cruise shows the impossible frustration of not wanting to change even under these conditions. We watch as he's forced to effortfully commit to learning a new way. Emily Blunt scores major points as the beautiful and deadly teacher who reluctantly signs on with him because there is no other choice. That she is slowly won over by this shallow man who starts to find his depth is the heart of the film. That Cruise pulls us along through deeper and deeper frustrations and failures as he bends, breaks, is broken again and keeps his suffering honest, is what wins us over.
Hard work seems to be a forgotten ideal in American identity. Everyone is working hard, but desperation has replaced fortitude. The idea of working hard to achieve a goal now seems to be the stuff of ancient tales from the 1980s, forget the stories of the survivors from the depression and world war two, they seem like they're form another planet. We've lost touch with 'toughing it out' to make a better life for the next generation. Maybe it's because of all the eye candy advertisers tell us we deserve right now.
Transcendence, stepping outside of oneself, the connection and commitment one feels for other people and acting in service for them, is the truest deepest expression of the human heart.
This film is about that expression. About hope beyond possibility, hope beyond the mind's ability to understand and hope that your perseverance will have meaning in the face of despair.
It's a uniquely human quality, hope. And it has changed the world many times over many thousands of years, in ways that technology or politics never have nor will.
This film touches on that deep theme and brings it home as in the end hope is all they have left. Perseverance wins. It's a good message for the rest of us who leave the theater and go back to fighting the good fight every day.