Sunday, August 17, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow - Starring Tom Cruise as Dirk The Daring

So I just today saw Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, quite late I should say, because my strategy for budgeting my limited time to catch the occasional movie is to wait and see if (a) it's sufficiently reviewed, (b) I remain interested months after all the opening week hype, and (c) it comes to one of my favorite pub theaters where I can see the movie and down a pint of microbrew all for a Paper Hamilton.

The movie has been reviewed thousands of times by bloggers and critics already.  Most reviewers pick up on the action-adventure version of Groundhog Day.  Far fewer make the connection of the video game plot--you play and die, play and die, play and die, until you figure it out and win.  You kill the mothership (yeah, I guess there's a little Xevius to the plot).  I couldn't help but think of Dragon's Lair, the first video-anime arcade game where Dirk The Daring dies over and over again (Over the Edge? - shout out to LA Guns classic).  But that point's been made, even if I'm the first to compare Tom Cruise to Dirk The Daring.

I would much rather talk about Emily Blunt, the movie's heroine than Tom Cruise....
 Not only is she one of the most beautiful actresses of her day, she's also one of the most talented.  Any actors talent is ultimately measured by their range of roles, and Blunt has shown a very rare talent to take on any role and transform it into an imitation of life--think Sean Penn here, because she's that good.  I think Emily Blunt may be the best actress of her generation.

Getting back to the plot, and the original point I wanted to make here, there's an element of social commentary that I haven't seen mentioned in the few dozen reviews I've looked at for Edge of Tomorrow.  Cruise's character starts the movie thoroughly unlikeable.  Major Cage is, in fact, a first class asshole in a way that any generation that's lived through war (I guess that's every generation, because world leaders can't seem to figure out the peace thing) could relate to.  He starts the film as one to "play the game with the bravery of being out of range" (ping Roger Waters), a talking head on CNN with images of Hillary Clinton and other war pigs (ping Black Sabbath) talking about how winnable the conflict is, invoking the "Angel of Verdun" (Blunt's character Rita), and how it just needs more sacrifice to win.  Historians of WWI will recognize the Verdun reference, but the battle that claims Cruise's life over and over again is more of a foolish assault, like The Somme or Passchendale.

When Major Cage pops off to the commanding general, threating him with blackmail to avoid being sent to the front, he gets demoted and dispatched to the first wave.  The soldiers don't like the pompous, white collar officer either.  His attitude says it all--the hellish side of war is for blue collar people like you.  Cage goes across the English Channel in D-Day fashion and begins his series of brutal deaths.  He connects with Rita, the war hero who he learns had previously had his strange connection to the aliens to reset time, and they begin working through Cruise's memory to advance further and further on the alien mothership.  As he does, not only does Cruise advance in the game to save the world from annihilation, he also becomes a better person.  Edge of Tomorrow borrows from Groundhog Day, but it also has a lot of another (better) Bill Murray film in it--The Razor's Edge.  "The path to enlightenment is as sharp and narrow as a razor's edge."  Cruise's character, as a future-forward Dirk the Daring, doesn't just die over and over again in an endless stream of quarters until the game is won.  He goes through an accelerated, reincarnational drama.  He becomes a new man, a better man or son of man.  Then the story ends.  Did he go to the "Edge of Tomorrow" or did he just go "Over The Edge?"

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