And with that, we’ve reached the end of Hex Dimension ‘s impromptu sci-fi month. We had a look at some of our favourite science-fiction books , films , games , and comics , and it’s been generally geeky as usual. So I feel like this is the perfect time to talk about Edge of Tomorrow , a recent addition to the science-fiction genre. The film’s actually been out for ages ( Lucy already recommended it three weeks ago ), but I’ve been trapped in a time-loop ever since I saw it – destined to rewrite the first page of this review over and over again…

You’ll recognise that premise because it sounds a lot like Groundhog Day . And so does Edge of Tomorrow , at least at first. But there’s a difference – while Groundhog Day is a wonderful film, there’s a couple of important questions that it never quite answers. Edge of Tomorrow finally gives us the answers to those fundamental questions, which we’ve all pondered countless times. Questions like, “What if Groundhog Day had power-armour and thousands of alien monsters?”

What if?

"I Got You Babe" by Explodey and Cher

“They say we’re young and
we don’t know…”

Based on a 2004 Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the film follows Major William Cage, a soldier in the near-future, as he relives (and re-dies) the same day over and over again. The novel, incidentally, is called All You Need is Kill – a title just as dumb as Edge of Tomorrow , but a lot less boring!

There’s more in common with Groundhog Day than just that time-loop premise, too. Cage, played by Tom Cruise, undergoes almost the exact same arc as Bill Murray’s Phil. Both start out as fairly despicable TV celebrities (Cage is a PR officer who has never seen combat) and follow the same cycle of confusion, disbelief, sarcasm, depression, and acceptance, before finally embracing their curse and using it to better themselves. But rather than getting better at the piano or ice-sculpting, Cage gets better at killing things .

The first time he’s airdropped into the beach battle that will become his limbo – a D-day analogue so on-the-nose that it actually happens in Normandy – Cage doesn’t even know how to disable the safety on his gun. It’s a massacre before he even gets to the ground, and only gets worse when he finally faces the betentacled alien “Mimics”. He does eventually figure out all the weapons on his awesome (if daft-looking) exo-suit, but he dies a hell of a lot first. Unexpectedly, though, it’s not grim or depressing about it. His first death is pretty unpleasant, but it quickly becomes routine… and hilarious.

Because that’s the other thing about Groundhog Day : it’s a comedy. The time-loop thing is inherently funny, and All You Need is Kill understands that, finding amazing humour in dropping planes on Cage, running him over, and repeatedly shooting him in the head (cue montage!). Despite its horrific D-day setting, and its end-of-the-world stakes, this is a film with an enormous sense of fun – realising, as so many modern films fail to do, that drama hits a lot harder when there’s something lighter to contrast it with.

Contrast

Because there is drama. Tom Cruise may not be able to stay dead, but that’s not the case for Emily Blunt. Blunt plays Sergeant Rita Vrataski, a war-hero who charges into battle with a sword she seems to have borrowed from Pyramid Head , and she’s very much the heart and soul of the film. The first time we meet her, she betrays Cage and leaves him to die (which he does, again) – but as the film goes on she opens slowly up and he learns more and more about her. What really works, though, is that she never learns anything about him . Or rather she does learn things, but then she dies, or he dies, and the whole thing resets. We reach a point, later, where Cage knows her intimately – he’s spent years, maybe decades with this woman – yet she meets him for the first time every day. He’s almost certainly in love with her, and it’s one of the most tragic and romantic things I’ve ever seen, made all the moreso for the fact that it’s never even acknowledged.

I see you've played Knifey-HelicopterBladey before!

You call that a knife?

But there isn’t time for romance – there’s a war on! Cage and Vrataski spend almost every moment planning and training for tomorrow’s perpetual beach landing. Cage knows where the monsters will be, and which direction to dodge – Vrataski knows the best ways to fight them – and each day they get a little bit further. Often we’ll see things from Vrataski’s perspective, experiencing things for the first time, only to learn that Cage has already experienced them a hundred times before, each time doing just a fraction better than the last. This is where the film starts to move beyond Groundhog Day , and starts to reveal its other major influence: gaming .

It’s obvious, really – Cage keeps respawning at his last save point, slowly improving at both the game he’s playing and the specific level he’s stuck on. But we don’t notice because it’s just so well handled. Our own Paul Blewitt loves movies that use game logic , and this feels like both the pinnacle and the opposite of that – perfectly capturing the logic and mechanics of playing games, while never feeling like a game itself. When the pair plot the next day’s movements, knowing ahead of time exactly what to expect and when to expect it, it feels exactly like a couple of gamers planning a co-op mission, or preparing for a tricky raid.

And don’t worry – even if that last paragraph made no sense to you, it will still make sense on the screen. Understanding the gaming parallels is definitely cool, but it doesn’t change your understanding of the film itself. The mechanics are expertly weaved into the story, and used to terrific effect amidst the brilliant action. Even though we keep seeing the same battle, repeating forever, the little variations and surprises, as well as the gradual signs of progress, keep things dynamic and exciting.

The final act is the only thing, unfortunately, that feels a little flat. I think the problem is that it moves to a new location, and a different battle. We’ve watched these characters struggle slowly through the same fight – the same level – over and over, slowly getting closer to winning. But rather than beating that level, the film loads up a different level and beats that instead. It’s a great action scene with some brilliant moments, and it absolutely makes sense for the story, but it’s just not the action scene we’ve been wanting and willing them to reach. But that ultimately doesn’t matter, because it leads us into the ending.

Worth watching?

You may have heard people saying that the ending sucks, or that it cheats, or fails. Don’t listen to them. Those people are crazy people. The ending of Edge of Tomorrow , particularly in its final moments, is quite literally perfect. This is a marvellous film, taking a clever premise and running with it in all directions. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but still heavily dramatic; it’s action-packed, but still quiet and thoughtful; it’s a romance, but it never gets romantic; it’s about death, but it’s filled with such life . Whatever it is that you want from a summer movie, all you need is All You Need is Kill . Thumbs up!

And with that, we’ve reached the end of Hex Dimension ‘s impromptu sci-fi month. We had a look at some of our favourite science-fiction books , films , games , and comics , and it’s been generally geeky as usual. So I feel like this is the perfect time to talk about Edge of Tomorrow , a recent addition to the science-fiction genre. The film’s actually been out for ages ( Lucy already recommended it three weeks ago ), but I’ve been trapped in a time-loop ever since I saw it – destined to rewrite the first page of this review over and over again…

 

Edge of Tomorrow has been out so long that it’s probably not in cinemas any more. Our reviewer bought his own tickets, then died, then bought them again.