Edge of Tomorrow: A Sci-Fi Movie That Feels Like a Video Game

After an alien race called “mimics” invades the European mainland, the world bands together, creating a military called United Defense Force (UDF). Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) has been at the head of UDF’s media relations for some time but is called to the front. When he refuses, Cage is labeled “deserter,” stripped of rank, and forced into an infantry squadron. While storming French beaches, Cage’s squad is slaughtered by the mimics, and Cage blows himself up in a fight with an alpha mimic. But after he dies, Cage awakens to the exact same day again. While trying to correct his mistakes with each new day, he encounters Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a UDF war hero known as the “Angel of Verdun,” who knows exactly what he’s going through because she had the same ability.

It’s no coincidence that Edge of Tomorrow was released on the 70th anniversary of the Allied forces storming Omaha Beach in the French province of Normandy (a WWII event you know as “D-Day”). After all, most of this movie takes place on the beaches of Northern France as forces from around the world unite to defeat a common enemy. Sounds familiar. To be honest, I’m surprised the Edge of Tomorrow screenwriters didn’t use the term “D-Day” in the movie, considering it’s used by the military to denote the beginning of an operation—and this movie’s plot is about a major military operation. But that would’ve made the correlation too obvious, right?

Edge of Tomorrow has everything you’d expect in a sci-fi blockbuster: high-tech armor and weapons, creepy extra terrestrials, a male protagonist who has to save the world, a female protagonist with a killer body (But seriously, can I have Emily Blunt’s arms?). And while I would normally say it’s a tired formula, somehow, it works here. In fact, I didn’t even find Tom Cruise annoying, which was shocking.

A lot of it had to do with the interesting concept. The “mimics,” as they’re called, were kind of like the AI systems you find in most first-person shooter video games nowadays, in that they were able to learn from human thought processes and adjust accordingly. Not to mention, whenever the alpha mimics died, the Omega (a physical alien nucleus that linked all of the mimics together on a network of sorts) was able to reset the day, giving the mimics a chance to correct their failures. In that sense, Edge of Tomorrow really is like a video game because there’s no permanent death, and you’re given multiple chances to try certain situations again until you get “past a level.”

But I think the real reason this movie worked for me was because, for once, Tom Cruise deigned to play a character that didn’t immediately know what he was doing (so, you know, an average person).

Cage starts off being a smarmy-mouthed media specialist for the U.S. military who became a “Major” without earning his rank through combat. So he’s basically the type of officer that other officers who worked their way to the top after putting their lives on the line for their countries numerous times—like Brendan Gleeson’s General Brigham—hate.

When Cage tries to weasel his way out of duty, he gets punished and looks like a douche. And during his first time in battle, he dies quickly. Each time he comes back, he gets a little farther, but he has to work at it. Because you can’t go from rookie to expert in Halo Call of Duty Assassin’s Creed battle without practice. That was refreshing, especially since most action movies have their heroes hit the ground running with skills that they seem to develop out of nowhere.

Even Emily Blunt’s Rita Vratraski isn’t exactly the legendary warrior she’s made out to be, despite all of the “Full Metal Bitch” and “Angel of Verdun” war-time propaganda (yet another WWII reference). Sure, she’s a better fighter than Cage, but most of her earlier success was based on the fact that she, too, died fighting an alpha mimic, the blood of which allowed her to reset the day and fix her mistakes—an ability which she lost when she got injured, bled out, and taken to a hospital for a blood transfusion (because you have to die in order to reset). You can even see how she’s not perfect when she continually gets killed because she goes in guns-a-blazing with no strategy. As I said, it’s refreshing to see action heroes actually struggle.

The only thing I really didn’t like about this movie? I wasn’t really that invested in Cage and Vratraski as love interests. Not because Cruise and Blunt weren’t convincing, but more because I liked them better when they were military comrades. It made sense why the movie took their characters that direction though. After all, Cage worked closely with Vratraski to defeat the mimics, and he constantly watched her die, so he kept trying to protect her, during which he developed feelings. But from her end, it’s weird because, as each day resets, she’s practically only known him for a few hours. Meh. It’s a tiny issue that really isn’t even shoved in your face. Just a kiss before more death.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: Edge of Tomorrow is based on a book called All You Need is Kill. And I must say, I’m glad they changed the name. Because it sounds like a poorly-translated foreign movie title.

Overall, The Edge of Tomorrow was as enjoyable as last summer’s sci-fi blockbuster Elysium. With an interesting concept (that also has tons of WWII references), solid special effects, the presence of Emily Blunt (who seems to improve most movies she’s in), and a surprisingly non-irritating version of Tom Cruise, it’s a movie that just works. It helps, too, that the movie almost functions like a video game, in that its characters are able to die, reset, and learn from their mistakes. And let’s be honest—that’s something we all wish we had in real life.

Edge of Tomorrow: A

One thought on “Edge of Tomorrow: A Sci-Fi Movie That Feels Like a Video Game

  1. For the benefit of anyone who skips the middle bit of the posts but then goes on to read the comments

    *SPOILERS AHEAD* *SPOILERS AHEAD* *SPOILERS AHEAD*

    And not only for this film, but the X-Men one too. Specifically for the endings.

    Though it’s not that surprisingly spoilery, just a little bit more spoilery than noting that James Bond is always available to be the subject of the next James Bond film.

    Anyway, now there’s enough spoiler space… I saw Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men Days of Future Past on the same day, and that makes it especially noticeable how similarly they end. In both, one specific hero gets into a time-wimey travel situation, and both are involved in battles during which many of their colleagues get horribly killed. But then [quel surprise] at the end both of the operations they are engaged in succeed, as part of which all their dead colleagues come back to life (or more properly time is reset and it turns out they were never killed in the first place). But as a necessary component of the timey-wimeyness each film’s hero is left as the only man standing who remembers exactly what happened in the alternative timelines now stepped aside from. And yet, luckily, in both cases they have someone else they can confide in, someone who will believe what they are talking about even if neither knows the specifics. Emily Blunt, because she had had the same loopy condition before and will believe what she hears. And Patrick Stewart, because he will recall the discussions and events of 1973 and what he was told then, even though he will have no knowledge of the alternative 2023 (well, except for the cross-time mind-meld scene).

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