Edge of Tomorrow is a futuristic action/science-fiction film that takes place during a war with an invading alien race who seem to have some control over time. A high-concept film that cleverly works in a conceit that excuses the film for being very Hollywood.
Tom Cruise begins as William Cage: an inexperienced, queasy-at-the-sight-of-blood, coward officer. This obviously must change – he is Tom Cruise. Confessing to be more involved in the campaigning side of things and attempting to blackmail his way out of participation, Cage finds himself volunteered to fight on the frontline against these alien invaders.
Very soon he will find himself dropped into combat wearing a future-tech soldier-suit, the type to have plasma guns appear from hidden crevices, unfortunately he hasn’t been trained on how to use it. Instead the action hero in the film takes the shape of Emily Blunt as Rita: ‘the full metal bitch’ as they are sure to remind us. Picking up from her previous sci-fi action film Looper, Blunt holds her own against another 50-year-old action star with the same stony faced stoicism. She dances around the battlefield whilst dear old Cage only manages to pick off one of the so-called Mimics before dying.
And then the day starts again… turns out the creature the Cage killed has locked him into his own private Groundhog Day. Now he must use this infinite repetition to his advantage and use his superseding knowledge of the day to find help and get trained up. He must escape the strict watch of his General for instance, and so whilst on exercise he tries to roll under a moving car in order to break away. Every time he mistimes the move and is chewed up by the tires of the oncoming vehicle, his day is reset. Once this is established with the audience, the film doesn’t need to explain how many times Cage has attempted an act of daring, we can safely assume he has tried it over and again until it has worked – we are merely catching his successful attempt.
In Mission Impossible we have no such excuse for the luck that is granted Ethan Hunt. Action films often preface their death-defying stunts by endowing the hero with a history in the special forces, with a very specific set of skills as it were, but it cannot excuse these moments of sheer luck that are threaded throughout Hollywood films – those purely cinematic moments that defy realism. Edge can do precisely that, thereby explaining away why Cruise can roll under a moving car. A beautiful flourish.
We later find out that Blunt too had this power but lost it.. that’s why she is such a bad-ass. She decides to train Cage so that they can work as a team to find the headhoncho alien and win the war. The reset device is used to create a unique kind of montage in which comedy is derived from the execution of the protagonist: if he slips up, she shoots him. LIVE. DIE. REPEAT (get it?) With fast-paced editing and reused shots, this technique provides well-earned comedic relief. If not simply relieving from the cold, austere seriousness of Blunt. She is training him. An unlikely turn for a Cruise action film – though this is corrected when he overtakes her and reprises his role as action hero, saving her in return (call it even) then saving the day like she never could (not quite even) then she is demoted to a fleeting love interest.
Problem is that the stakes have been wiped as there is no longer the threat of death. And so comes a flimsy explanation for how this power is lost, turning the film into ordinary Hollywood fair, especially when in the final moments of the film it seems to employ its own rules and revive the hero for a happy ending.
Edge of Tomorrow utilises it’s concept to justify the Hollywoodness that it shines with, and though it can’t sustain this subversion until the very end, it’s impressive while it lasts.