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From Under A Rock: Edge of Tomorrow

February 3, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Edge of Tomorrow
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From Under A Rock: Edge of Tomorrow  


You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.
You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.
…wait, what just happened?

Last week Michael chose Bernie. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Edge of Tomorrow.

Edge of Tomorrow
Released: June 6th, 2014 (U.S.)
Directed by: Doug Limon
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth
Tom Cruise as Maj. William Cruise
Emily Blunt as Sgt. Rita Vrataski
Bill Paxton as Master Sgt. Farrell
Brendan Gleeson as General Brigham

Aaron Hubbard: Edge of Tomorrow is a film I slept on when it came out but picked up for cheap on a Christmas sale after hearing nothing but good things. One of my great regrets is not seeing it this movie in theaters, because we really don’t get blockbusters like this very often anymore.

Michael Ornelas: Tom Cruise has always been a tough sell for me, so there was very little chance of me seeing this in theaters. But, in much the same fashion, I’ve gotten very excited to watch this due to the positive word of mouth surrounding it.
Live. Die. Repeat.
Aaron: The movie’s tagline (and possibly its new title, according to my DVD cover) explains the basic gimmick of the movie. It’s an alien invasion movie based on a manga, but it also has a gimmick where each time our hero Maj. William Cage dies, he wakes up again at a same point and repeats the day over until he dies again. So, a science fiction version of Groundhog Day. This allows for a lot of creative deaths, often used for the sake of humor but mostly just to show how Cage grows as a character. And for me, this really works. The alien invasion stuff is fun, but this gimmick really makes the movie.

Michael: I don’t want to call this movie “run of the mill” without the gimmick, but I did care substantially more about the gimmick than the overlying plot that he’s navigating via the gimmick. It was like a less tongue-in-cheek version of Starship Troopers. The aliens look badass though.

Aaron: I feel like the movie does have a unique aesthetic. It draws on things we know, like the mech suits, the giant Final Fantasy-esque blades. In some ways it reminds me of Pacific Rim, which borrows a lot from manga and anime and thus just looks a little fresher to American audiences. I also appreciate how coherent the action is despite a chaotic camera that’s borrowing from various war movies. But… yeah, this movie needed the resurrection gimmick.
Mixing the Fun with the Pacing
Michael: One thing I really enjoyed about this movie (or at least the first 60% of it) was its pacing. It allows us, as viewers, to catch on to what’s happening at the same pace Cage is figuring it out. He’s confused after his first death and so are we. He’s scared and confused after the second death, but kind of sees what happens. After several more, we get the idea, as does he. Then he starts playing with it to see how different scenarios play out. Some are his death, others are the way forward. But we don’t go back to the beginning every time. Choosing what are basically “check points” for the narrative is an incredibly smart way to pace this movie because we’ve already figured out everything that successfully leads to that check point. I think they did that in just the right way.

Aaron: That’s an interesting way to phrase that, since this movie reminds me of a video game, more than any other. What I love about this movie is that it takes every possible opportunity it can to kill Tom Cruise. Most narratives have heroes that we know aren’t in real peril because they are the central protagonist. But here, we get to see him get killed trying to roll under a truck, or because he got injured in practice. And it also solves the problem of him knowing when he’s going to be attacked, because he does know they are coming. Similarly, this allows them to develop the relationship between Cage and Rita a little faster, because we can assume he’s had some of the conversations before. It works great… until the final act of the movie. When Cage loses the resurrection, he becomes the improbably capable hero we expect Tom Cruise to play. Does the movie earn that? I don’t know.

Michael: The latter half of the movie lost me a little bit. I was really into it for the gimmicky portion of the movie and then it fell off for me. It wasn’t bad but all my investment depleted. I’d still happily watch a sequel though!
From Coward to Hero
Aaron: So I know Michael is less than fond of Tom Cruise, which is an opinion I used to share. And in all fairness, if we put aside Cruise’s real life eccentricities, he has shown that he isn’t an actor with a great amount of range. But I think this was a perfect role for him to take because it’s so far against type for him. He always plays hyper capable, cool and collected heroes; but William Cage is a coward. He’s not cool, he’s not skilled, he’s just getting by on charisma. But once he’s caught in a time-looped death trap, we see him develop into the type of character we are used to seeing Tom play. This time, it feels earned. In my opinion.

Michael: I can agree with that. And his personal antics have definitely influenced my opinion of the guy. I think he’s full of himself, so watching him play characters that also have every right to be full of themselves makes me see the guy as more egotistical for picking those roles. That said, Les Grossman is a treasure. As far as William Cage goes, I loved his wimpiness at the top of the movie. He had no honor, just survival instincts, and that carried him through to becoming a badass hero. It was a cool, but easy formula for success.

Aaron: Also, if you dislike Cruise, it’s hard not to enjoy a movie that kills him over and over again for cheap laughs. The more I see it, the more I think the Groundhog Day comparison is appropriate in theme, not just the gimmick. Both movies have deeply flawed, unlikable protagonists who become better people by reliving the same day over and over. And interestingly, the real key to change is learning to value and respect someone else as much as they value themselves. Cage learns to value his soldiers, but he really discovers himself through his relationship with Rita.

Michael: If this film didn’t lose momentum down the home stretch for me, it’d be a classic, must-see sci-fi film for me. It fell a little short of that but was still a very enjoyable watch and I’ll probably watch it again one day. I recommend it, even if I wouldn’t shower it with nothing but praises.


Aaron: Edge of Tomorrow is a movie I recommend if for no other reason than it’s decidedly different from most blockbusters we’ve gotten this decade. Repeat viewings have soured me on the film’s decidedly weak third act, but most of the movie is relentlessly entertaining and worth watching.


Michael: So fun that you picked this not even realizing that the column comes out on Groundhog Day.

Aaron: It was the happiest of accidents.

Should we review this again tomorrow?

Next week:

Michael: With The Phantom Thread being in Oscar contention, I figured I’d pick director Paul Thomas Anderon’s breakthrough work for next week.
Boogie Nights
Aaron: Well this is exciting. Paul Thomas Anderson’s recent movies have always left an impression, so I’m curious to see some of his earlier work.

Michael: I really like this one and Magnolia, so I’m happy to revisit it.

What’s your favorite PTA film?

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Edge of Tomorrow is a kick-ass science fiction action movie that is decidedly different from most blockbusters we've gotten this decade. But if that's not enough to pique your interest, it also borrows liberally from Groundhog Day to deliver satisfying character development, cool action beats, and big laughs in equal measure. It's also probably the most original work Tom Cruise has done outside of Tropic Thunder. Check this one out.