Using the same plot device as Harold Ramis’s temporal breakthrough script Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow gives a more plausible rationale for a person living the same day over and over again, but couches the story in a science fiction action adventure format.
Sometime in the future, a meteor crashes into earth, unleashing a vicious alien fighting force. These creatures, which look like a cross between an octopus and the creature from Alien, immediately take over most of Europe and then are stopped by the human allies, the United Defense Force (UDF). The public relations spokesperson for the UDF, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) announces that the forces have been halted at Verdun by a female soldier using a new fighting machine, Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt).
When ordered to report to the commanding officer of the allied invasion force, British General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), Cage finds himself ordered to report to the front lines to cover the invasion. A coward at heart, Cage tries to finagle a way to get out of it and finally resorts to blackmailing the General. Brigham will have no part of it and orders Cage arrested. He wakes up the next morning at Heathrow Airport. He has been busted down to the rank of Private, branded a deserter, and assigned to Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton). He is marched to his new unit, J Company, a bunch of stupid soldiers dumber than any unit ever depicted in film history (and that’s saying quite a bit, actually). The next day, he is strapped into his fighting machine and the soldiers are flown to Normandy.
Before the drop, they come under attack and the plane is shot down. Dropping onto the beach, Cage is truly lost in a masscre. He is attacked by an alien who is a bit larger than the others and of a bluish color. Later, this creature will be identified as an “Alpha.” He is killed by the Alpha and wakes up back at Heathrow, living the same day over. He tries to convince the others that they are heading to a massacre, but no one will listen. He is killed and the day resets. This action prompted the advertising slogan, “Live. Die. Repeat.” As the days go by, he learns more from each day’s events and finally meets Rita on the field of battle. She watches him going through a very precise series of motions designed to keep him alive and she tells him, “Find me when you wake up tomorrow.”
This begins a new series of days where he gradually figures out how to find her at Heathrow. Explaining the situation to her, she takes him down to a basement where Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), a scientist in the guise of a worker reveals that the aliens are all linked to an Omega that controls them all, but that the Alphas control the time loop. Rita had previously ran into an Alpha at Verdun and she went through the same process of living a day over and over again until she was badly hurt and they replaced her blood—that is what broke the time loop. They know that eventually the looper will begin to dream about where the omega is and that his how they will eventually find and kill it.
Rita begins to train him to prepare for battle and they live the same day over and over many times as he begins to perfect how to find the Omega. He dreams of a dam in Germany where the Omega is hiding and so they hatch a plan to get there. Every day, of course, he has to re-educate Rita, Carter, and his squadron as to what is going on. At one point, he and Rita make it pretty far, holding out at a farm house, but he tells her that this is the point where she dies and if he is actually going to kill the Omega, he doesn’t want her dead. The next time he relives the day, he goes alone and makes it all the way to the dam, but the Omega isn’t there. Instead, he finds an ambush and is killed again.
Carter has a device that he thinks will allow them to tap into the aliens and find out the real hiding place of the Omega, but part of his equipment has been confiscated by General Brigham. This begins another series of days where Cage must figure out how to get to the general and convince the man to give him the equipment. When he does so, he taps into the alien part of his blood and discovers that the Omega is actually hiding underneath the Louvre, but he is injured during the escape and wakes up in the hospital getting fresh blood.
His day will no longer reset and he will only have one chance to take out the Omega.
There are a lot of really good things in this movie.
Based on the 2004 Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the screenplay went through a large number of writers to achieve its final form. As directed by Doug Liman, this film really moves fast. The trick in these time loop movies is getting the audience to quickly figure out that the same day is being lived over and over again so that each day can move ahead in plot and not get bogged down in too much repetition. The film copies the techniques used in Groundhog Day to extremely good effect and it moves like a bat out of hell. It uses a lot of humor to provide relief from the many violent scenes of warfare and it does so very effectively. The fighting machines used by the soldiers remind me a lot of machines conceived of by Robert A Heinlein in his novel Starship Troopers, a terrific concept that wasn’t actually used in the movie based on Heinlein’s work. The aliens are extremely well designed and executed.
This movie is a lot of fun to watch!
In addition to all the technical wizardry, the acting is surprisingly good. Emily Blunt is always great and she really comes through brilliantly in this movie. Tom Cruise begins as his usually dislikable self, but as the film goes on he gains considerable traction and ends up with a really fine performance. I liked him for once!
But the best acting job by far is accomplished by Bill Paxton. I didn’t even know he was in the movie until the credits rolled at the end and then I was stunned because I didn’t recognize him at all. It is one of those breakthrough acting jobs like Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich or Christian Slater in The Figher.
Overall, I think most audiences will enjoy this movie regardless of some of the extremely violent scenes. The comedy carries well and the film moves so quickly along that it all adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Quick, fun entertainment.