Cristeta, who has never been accused of showing a movie that is “too old” (11 of the 13 films she has shown were from the current millennium, with only Alien from 1979 and Network from 1976 – both undeniable classics – breaking that trend), brought us another summer-fresh movie this week, but before that she showed a Key and Peele skit:
Though I would argue that this particular short clearly belongs in front of a different movie (and if you don’t know which one, please, please watch The Shining again), there’s a bit of aproposity here as well, as the feature film deals with a somewhat different form of eternal recurrence. That film was this summer’s blockbuster Edge Of Tomorrow, directed by Doug Liman. Let’s get right to it.
It is the near future, and the Earth is attempting to fend off an invasion by a particularly effective alien enemy called the Mimics. Humanity certainly has its heroes in this war, notably Emily Blunt, who had preternatural success at the recent battle of Verdun – the only battle that the humans have won. It also has its cowards, which include Tom Cruise, a former American advertising agent with no battle training who has been conscripted as a public relations officer and sent to Britain for the presumably difficult job of running PR for a war in which the entire continental mainland of Europe has already been lost.
I mean, it would seem to be a tough PR job, but we never actually get to see Tom Cruise (who plays smarmy and cowardly with uncanny ease) perform it. Instead, for no apparently good reason, a British General forces Cruise to embed in an imminent D-Day style invasion of the mainland, an invasion which is on an enormous scale and has only been undertaken because the humans have been emboldened by their recent victory at Verdun. When Cruise (who has no intention of – or business in – going into battle) threatens to use his superpower of PR against the General, he is summarily arrested, cuffed, knocked out, and sent to the deployment front (at Heathrow) as a deserting Private. When he comes to, he tries to convince the local officers of his true rank and unsuitability for battle (this latter should be obvious) but to no avail – he is stuffed into a mech suit and sent to the front.
Yeah. He’s got no idea what he’s doing. Furthermore, the battle is a massacre. Despite the fact that the humans believed they would be able to make it well inland without the Mimics’ knowledge, the invasion group is attacked before landfall and they walk straight into a slaughter.
A word about the Mimics: They’re called “mimics” even though they don’t actually mimic anything. They move really fast so you can’t quite see them, just like all good CGI effects, but they’re basically made of not much but tentacles. Really fast, swirly tentacles. Apparently a very complicated CGI program was designed to render them in such a way that none of the tentacles ever had overlap issues, but it’s not like you could actually tell. Maybe if you bought the Blu-Ray and moved through the film frame-by-frame, but who would want to do that? Anyway, after happening to see the Angel of Verdun getting cut down in battle, Cruise somehow manages to kill a particularly large and rare Mimic (known as an Alpha) before being killed himself in the process, with the Alpha’s corrosive blood eating away his face as he dies.
Well, imagine that! Cruise wakes up back at Heathrow the day before the invasion! Except he remembers everything that happened. Unfortunately, his story is not particularly convincing to his commanding officers, who send him to his death in the invasion again.
Little by little, Cruise starts to get the hang of this. And he begins to focus his efforts on saving the Angel of Verdun, because she’s a war hero plus she’s totally hot. I mean, win-win, right? He learns where the Mimics are going to be coming from and gradually is able to get farther and farther along in his rescue of Blunt. If you think it sounds like a video game, well, you’re right. One day, after no-look shooting about ten Mimics in his rescue attempt, Blunt takes keen notice. With a Mimic coming at her, instead of trying to fight or escape, she turns to Cruise and says, “Find me when you wake up!”
She knows. Of course, it’s not that easy for Cruise to get away from his platoon and find Blunt at Heathrow (this includes a humorous moment when he gets run over by a truck – but hey, no harm no foul, right?) but finally he manages it.
And it turns out she’s a total bitch. Who, of course, doesn’t know anything about the imminent ambush of the invasion. But unlike Cruise’s commanding officers, she’s actually relatively easy to convince of the situation – because Live-Die-Repeat happened to her at the Battle of Verdun. No wonder she got to be such a hero! She had practice!
The explanation of the whole Live-Die-Repeat scenario goes something as follows: The Mimics have some sort of control over time. The Alphas, being somewhat like Generals in their army, are extremely rare and valuable to their war effort. As such, there is something in their blood that, if they die, causes the day to be reset and played over again like Groundhog Day, only the repeating doesn’t end when you finally kiss Andie McDowell, it ends when you don’t die. Blunt, like Cruise, had killed an Alpha and been covered with its blood. However, she lost her ability to restart the day when after being wounded on the battlefield she was given a blood transfusion. Naturally, since Blunt lost the power, you know that Cruise will eventually lose it too, and they’ll have to face the final boss with no extra lives and no save code. And it’s a summer blockbuster, so you know they’ll win. (Did that just spoil the movie?)
Of course, the first step is to turn Cruise into a great soldier. It takes some time. Blunt makes constant use of her .44 caliber reset button, just because she can.
Anyway, to make a long story short, they eventually learn to fight their way off of the battlefield, and make their way to a dam in Germany, whither Cruise is having visions of the aliens’ Mother Brain (technically called the “Omega”, but still) being located. When he finally gets there he finds that it’s an ambush and that the visions of the Mother Brain were false ones manipulated by the Mimics, who are hoping to bleed him dry and remove his Groundhog Day power.
With this being a dead end, Blunt and Cruise try a different tack, but this is where the film kind of goes off the rails. Somehow, there is a magic tech device, locked away in a safe in the office of the very General who sent Cruise to the front, that will allow an Alpha to determine the location of the Mother Brain. Seems pretty useless, right? But with Cruise possessing Alpha blood, it becomes the machina ex machina of the film. They finally manage to procure it, but they are under pursuit when they use it. Cruise figures out that the Mother Brain is in a flooded parking garage under the Louvre (convenient of the aliens to pick a very recognizable landmark for their base, rather than, say, a nondescript warehouse), but he is injured, captured, and wouldn’t you know it – given a blood transfusion.
This means that they get one chance to beat the Mother Brain, and they don’t even get to practice the moves! Not only that, they don’t have any time to plan because humanity is about to be utterly crushed in the invasion the next day. But they manage to recruit Cruise’s platoon to desert from the base, steal a transport, and accompany them to the Louvre. As you would expect, along the way everybody in the platoon (including Blunt) commits an act of sacrifice to get Cruise to the Mother Brain (kissing Cruise is one of, but not the final sacrifice Blunt makes) and he is able to blow it up with a grenade belt, dying in the process. The Mother Brain (which is basically just a sea anemone that has swallowed a plasma globe) is destroyed, and the aliens all turn to stone or something. Humanity wins!
No, not really. I mean, it should have been the end, and I almost had to give the movie at least a bit of respect for actually killing both Blunt AND Cruise…but then magic happens. Mother Brain blood gets on Cruise’s body, and he wakes up – two days before, just prior to his meeting where the General sends him off to the front. Except this time, the aliens have suddenly and unexpectedly died after an unexplained explosion at the Louvre. Humanity wins! (We’ll just ignore the fact that time got reset back to a date before the aliens had actually been destroyed and by the film’s own internal logic the aliens have to be defeated again, because for the love of all that is holy this movie really needs to be over.)
And Cruise has to embark on his 50 First Dates quest to bang the Angel of Verdun one…more…time.
This movie. I just don’t know what to say. It’s a blockbuster, so its plot naturally sucks, and you know what’s going to happen, and it’s got cheesy CGI that’s run in fast forward to make it look like it’s good. The plot holes are numerous (why did the aliens know the D-Day invasion was coming if the day hadn’t been reset yet?), the characters are stereotyped (enter the nerdy, misunderstood scientist who completely knows how to defeat the enemy for no particular reason, but who is not given the funding or the opportunity to do so and manages to hook up with the only other person in the world who will believe him), when everything seems lost there’s a magical power-up device in a really convenient location, and in the end an interesting premise is run into the ground so badly that even the director himself completely ignores his film’s own internal logic to give it a Hollywood happy ending. Somewhere, in some theater, I’m sure that by the 1:30 mark somebody must have yelled out, “We know they’re going to win! Can you just let them win, already, and get it over with?!?”
Still, the movie has its charms. Watching Tom Cruise die over and over and over again is really funny. Is that wrong? And the moment when Blunt tells Cruise to find her when he wakes up – that’s good. So yes, it’s entertaining, but that’s about all it has going for it. Well, that and Emily Blunt.