GROUNDHOG DAY is an American classic in my opinion. It has this crazy Twilight Zone type of premise (what if you had to live the same day over and over again indefinitely?) that seems too out there for a 1993 studio comedy, and yet there it is. It’s funny and clever and last time I watched it I realized it was also beautiful and profound. It’s a complete original, so it’s weird to think that after two sci-fi spins on the premise, SOURCE CODE and EDGE OF TOMORROW, we could be headed toward a world where young people see it and don’t think there’s anything unique about it. I’ve seen this before, but with action scenes. I’m bored.
EDGE OF TOMORROW is kinda like GROUNDHOG DAY by way of STARSHIP TROOPERS, a little ALIENS, a little MATRIX REVOLUTIONS, plus some inspiration from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and/or the actual invasion of Normandy (weirdly it was released on the 70th anniversary of the invasion).
In a future where the world is at war with squiggly, super-powered aliens, Tom Cruise in a cool mech suit is involved in a storming of France. But the aliens somehow know the earthlings are coming, the whole thing fails, everybody dies. Luckily one of those alien blood infection things you get sometimes happens to give Cruise the power that those sonofabitches have been using to win this thing all along: he “resets” to the last time he woke up and goes through the same day again. A life reboot. This continues to happen each time he gets killed.
Of course people are comparing it to a video game, because he has to keep trying things over and over again until he figures out how to get it right and beat the aliens. But he doesn’t lose everything each time he starts over. Like in GROUNDHOG DAY he’s able to spend time training with or getting to know a girl (Emily Blunt) and building on this each day even if she doesn’t remember.
Let’s be frankly honest, this is also very similar to the entertainingly ridiculous Nicolas Cage picture NEXT, where he can jump back in time a little bit and he uses his do-over powers to sneak around and dodge objects and stuff. EDGE OF TOMORROW ends up using similar storytelling techniques, and it’s good about not getting too repetitive in a movie that is by design repeating things. We don’t always have to see him learning everything, many times it’ll skip ahead to when he’s already fucked up some plan 52 times and figured out a bunch of stuff.
The use of Blunt as an action hero is clever. She carries herself just right, she has the right coldness in her eyes, but the camera doesn’t bother trying to make her look buff like Sarah Connor, it’s very honest about her being a twig wearing clothes.
This would be a problem in any other world, but in this movie a soldier’s strength is provided by machinery. If they both had the suits on she could theoretically beat the shit out of Andre the Giant if she knew the right moves. (Plus we find out another reasonable explanation for how she managed to get in the Guinness Book for alien slaying.)
Confession: I can never remember which movies have Emily Blunt and which ones have Rebecca Hall.
Bill Paxton is in here as the Master Sergeant that Cruise has to report to when he’s thrown into combat. It’s cool to see ol’ Mr. Game Over Man in there but if I’m being honest with myself it’s more nostalgia for his past work than anything about what he does with this particular character.
But at least Cruise is stretching himself a little, because he’s not playing his usual hyper-competent hero. That’s one thing you don’t get from the advertising. He’s actually playing a coward who tries to get out of joining the battle – the opposite of his son in WAR OF THE WORLDS. He’s a Major, more of a PR guy than anything, who’s helped turn Blunt’s asskicking war hero character into a media icon. When they decide they want his boots on the ground (I wasn’t clear why – to show that anybody could do it with these suits?) he acts like it’s all a big misunderstanding. There’s something weird about this scene, like it’s on the border of being kinda broad but doesn’t quite make it there. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. But he tries to laugh it off. Killing and dying? Ha ha, no, I would be terrible at that job, that’s the job you people do. Ha ha am I right? No offense.
And then when he’s forced into it he’s pretty incompetent for a while, bumping into things, not knowing how to handle the other soldiers making fun of him. Even as he gains more skills he keeps doing stupid things like getting run over by a truck and having to start over. There’s actually alot of laughs in this one, something we could probly use more of in the big summer movies these days. And then by the end he’s kinda developed into standard Tom Cruise, but that’s okay because I enjoy standard Tom Cruise.
This got me to thinking, though, of what in my opinion would be the ultimate version of this movie: just do it with Bill Murray. Is it supposed to be some kind of spiritual sequel to GROUNDHOG DAY, you would wonder. But it doesn’t matter. Imagine Murray as the PR dick who tries to smarm his way out of combat, then as the doofus who has to put on the power suit and figure out what the fuck he’s doing, then the guy who knows everything from reliving the day over and over again, and he gets to dress everybody down.
Bonus: Stephen Tobolowsky as the General. And get Chris Elliot as the scientist.
This may sound ridiculous but I honestly think it would work. The character really does seem designed to be more out of his element than Cruise seems. They wouldn’t even have to rewrite it, though they’d want to let him ad-lib I’m sure.
Or also what if Tom Cruise wore a fake nose.
The screenplay is by a bunch of people, based on a Japanese novel called “All You Need Is Kill,” though a more literal translation would be “Everyone Knife Punch Always.” (I made that up but in my opinion as a non-Japanese reader it’s definitely true 110%.) One of the script rewriters was Christopher McQuarrie, Academy Award winner for THE USUAL SUSPECTS and writer/director of JACK REACHER. He’s kinda become Cruise’s guy since writing VALKYRIE for him. Next he’s gonna direct MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5: THE MOST PROTOCOL.
EDGE OF TOMORROW is a fun movie that I would recommend to anybody. It’s kind of a collage of ideas we’ve seen before, but put into an unusual order. For me it’s not an instant summer classic, because it’s not the type of movie I keep thinking about for days and interpreting in different ways and wanting to re-watch immediately. If I had to choose I think I might prefer OBLIVION, because I liked its sort of sci-fi parody of the American dream, and the drones were more memorable and full of personality than any of the sci-fi inventions in this one. But I think most people would think I was crazy for saying that, and I wouldn’t fight ’em too much. EDGE is more of a crowdpleaser. Funnier, faster paced, more action and complex special effects spectacle type shit to enjoy. And more plot intensive.
In my opinion WAR OF THE WORLDS is still the top Tom Cruise science fiction picture, but that was from the director of JAWS. This one is from the director of JUMPER. Let’s give him some credit. Good effort Doug Liman.
June 9th, 2014 at 3:19 am
Loved that little death-squeal from Cruise before each time he died. Hilarious. Screamed like a girl. Kentucky Fried Hard-Ass Sergeant was great. Paxton’s in his element when he’s playing funny asshole, like Chet in WEIRD SCIENCE, psycho vampire in Bigelow’s NEAR DARK and all-round jerk in Cameron’s TERMINATOR and TRUE LIES.
It can’t be overstated enough how good an actor Cruise is, not just in this but throughout most of his career. Love the guy. One of the great Movie Star Actors. Always convincing, solid to the core.
I also didn’t understand the abruptness of the General ordering Cruise into battle. And why send an older guy with no combat training when the grunts are all in their 20-30’s and physically peaking? Cruise looks good for his 50 odd years but it’s still a stretch. And like you pointed out Vern, it was just luck he got infected with the alien blood. It wasn’t like the General indicated there was a hidden reason why Cruise was the man to go. I guess it was necessary to move the story along. But that whole scene played out funny with Cruise trying to charm and squirm his way out of going, and humor-free General Gleeson not budging an inch.
Action scenes were a bit too chaotic, but didn’t kill it for me.