Do not make fun of me… but I had never actually seen Edge of Tomorrow before last night when I watched for this blog. I know, I know! I’ve heard for years how good it is and I know that it helped solidify the Tom Cruise-Chris McQuarrie relationship, and I even know that Emily Blunt’s character, Rita Vrataski, is considered one of the best female roles in an action film. But I was one of the many people who missed it when it first came out, even though it managed to make a good amount of money (enough to warrant the development of a sequel).
I knew the basic idea going in. Tom Cruise is in a loop in the middle of an action movie and he’s going to fall in love with Emily Blunt, a female character with agency. Outside of that, I knew nothing. So it came as a bit of a surprise to watch the opening sequence and ALIENS invading the planet. But the part that actually made my jaw drop was ten minutes into the film. After a media sequence establishing Cruise/Major Cage’s role as a PR man for the military’s new mech-tech suit, Cage is called into talk to his new Commanding Officer and told he’s going to the invasion front to film the fight… and Cage says no! We haven’t learned anything about Cage up until this point except that he’s charismatic and a good talker. And I’m sure there are other movies about soldiers who are truly cowards, but my goodness I was shocked to see such blatant cowardice! What a great start to a movie!
In both Palm Springs and The Mindy Project, we were looking at characters who start the story off with broken hearts. They’re self-centered either because that’s who they are at their core (Mindy) or as a symptom out of their depression/heartache (Sarah in Palm Springs). Tom Cruise often plays characters with a lot of ego (and a healthy dose of daddy issues as well… Jerry McGuire, A Few Good Men, Top Gun, etc.) and Cage does as well, but I wouldn’t call him self-centered. The ego comes more from the charisma of the job. He wears a soldier’s uniform but he’s anything but a soldier, which is what he has to learn over the course of the film. The Groundhog Day trope is all about first learning gratitude and then learning to be of service to the world around you. Putting it in this context takes the idea of “service” to a literal level that is both unexpected and compelling.
It also is part of what makes Vrataski such an interesting antagonist. When I say she’s an antagonist, I don’t view her as someone that Cage is actively fighting against, but she is a “positive antagonist”. Vrataski has the service-oriented mind that Cage needs to learn. In every sequence, she challenges Cage to be better. She doesn’t do it as a best friend, therapist, or family member character who serves as a Greek chorus as we see in other films, but she has an active role that demands Cage be better.
One thing I was reading after watching the film was that people didn’t buy the kiss heading into the climactic moment of the film, but I disagree! The feeling was that the moment was forced, but if you’ve been listening to Vrataski, you know that in one sequence she opens up about having to watch someone she cares about die. Which means that when she learns that Cage is in a loop and knows so much about her, that he also has seen her die hundreds of time before. She might not be in love with him in that moment, but I believe she recognizes that at some point she has fallen in love with her and she gives him a kiss that she didn’t get in her loop. If they had left it out, I wouldn’t have been upset, however I personally thought it was justified to some degree.
Something that separates this story from the others that use this premise is that, because there is a clear mission from the outset, there’s no need to have a sequence where Cage is either living life to the fullest or committing suicide trying to end the loop. The need for that is taken away. He still kills himself a ton, but it’s from the mindset of knowing he will return instead of trying to end it. And instead of having a sequence where there are no consequences so the protagonist lives it up instead, we get Vrataski training him. There’s still a ton of humor however it comes from a place of enjoying Cage’s pain because he’s a bit of a jerk and kind of deserves it. It’s a really cool way to look at how you can reinvent a story by combining different genres and merging the touchstone moments of both.
Before we get to the breakdown, here are the links to the previous posts in this series:
Want: Win the war before the loop ends
Need: Stop being a coward, learn to be a soldier
Antagonist: The Omega, Farrell, Vrataski (she’s a positive antagonist)
Pre-Existing Life: In 2015, Mimics (aka Aliens) have invaded Earth and by 2020 they’ve taken over most of Europe. A new mech-suit used during the battle of Verdun helps land a victory and sets off a new PR stream of advertising the suit and recruiting more soldiers by the face of the military, Major Cage. Cage meets with General Brigham who tells Cage he is being sent to the front of the Paris Invasion to film. Cage refuses, he doesn’t want to be anywhere near actual battles and has avoided it throughout his military career. Brigham has him arrested as a deserter, demoted, and sent to the front where the invasion is a disaster. Cage manages to kill a very large mimic, with the acidic blood of the alien killing Cage in the process.
Inciting Incident: Cage wakes up to the moment where he arrived on the base, freshly demoted. He relives the day and tries to warn everyone about the failed invasion, but no one listens. He continues to loop and saves Rita Vrataski (aka the Angel of Verdun) who realizes he’s in a loop and tells him to find her.
Plot Push / First Act Decision: Cage wakes again and tracks Vrataski down. She takes him to a mimic expert, Dr. Carter. They explain how Vrataski was previously in a loop at Verdun. He has to locate and kill the Omega to end the loop and the war. And he has to do it without getting injured, he has to die every time otherwise, he could end up in a hospital like Vrataski did. She received a blood transfusion and it ended her loop.
Reversal: Vrataski trains Cage on how to fight and use the suit since he’s clueless. After a frustrating lesson, he escapes to London and sees the Omega (the primary mimic who caused Cage’s loop) will invade there next.
Midpoint: Cage sees a vision of a dam in Germany, and goes through loops trying to get there with Vrataski, getting to know her further in every loop. They get closer, but she’s always focused on the mission and she always dies at this spot.
Reversal #2: He goes there alone and is attacked by an alpha (the main aliens) trying to strip Cage of his powers. Cage drowns himself before the alien can end his loop.
False Climax / Low Point: Cage and Vrastaski go to Brigham to convince him to give them a prototype to track the Omega. They learn it’s under the Louvres in Paris. Cage is captured and injured. He wakes with a blood transfusion and can no longer time loop.
Plot Push / Third Act Decision: Vrataski frees Cage and they recruit J-squad to help destroy the Omega under the museum.
Climax: The team sacrifices themselves in the fight. Vrataski kisses Cage, thanking him for getting her as far as he did. An Alpha kills her and wounds Cage but he’s still able to blow up the Omega as he floats into it’s blood.
Resolution: Cage wakes to his first meeting with Brigham, befor ethe invasion. The war is over following a power surge in Paris. He goes to the base as a Major. J-squad is alive. Vrataski doesn’t recognize Cage as he approaches in his Major uniform.