Major William Cage, played by Tom Cruise, could never be mistaken for an archetypal hero. Cage is arguably likable for the same reasons people love his actor counterpart. He’s flawed, makes mistakes and at the same time he’s comically self-aware about it all.
Director Doug Liman’s interpretation of a hero in Edge of Tomorrow is seen from two different perspectives. This gives the sci-fi epic a good deal of its appeal. The first viewpoint is that of Cage, who comes in many different forms: cowardly, self-absorbed and an advertising major who would sooner hold a microphone than he would a gun. Another is that of the experienced legend of the battlefield, whose name, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), drops from the mouths of side characters as if she were a caricature of folklore.
Take these two radically different visions of a hero and place them in a world invaded by tentacle-to-tentacle creatures called Mimics. Instead of putting the responsibility on a clichéd champion, who everyone expects to be a savior to mankind, Liman decides to screw with the regular formula and place the fate of his fictional world into the hands of the main protagonist, who just happens to have the much needed ability of correcting his mistakes over, and over, and over again.
It’s this minor plot element wrapped up in the overdone setting of humans versus invaders that adds a variety of depth unexpected from the standard trend of sci-fi films. In some ways it wouldn’t be off to say that Liman almost creates a parody of the run of the mill war movie. Take Master Sergeant Farrell (played by Bill Paxton) for example. He repeatedly sings a chorus of testosterone-filled speeches before each recurring battle — a lot like Sergeant Apone from Aliens. Or, take the Saving Private Ryan like spectacle that serves as a stage for one comical death after the other. To ignore just how funny this film is would be to ignore what makes this flick so unexpectedly great, but with each amusing scene comes a series of dramatic reminders. Death in some ways can be a relief in war and an unending series of mistakes and witnessed fatalities can all amount to a fate far worse than the alternative. It’s a truth that Liman does a wonderful job of illustrating.
Other parts of the film are more convoluted and frustratingly mysterious in comparison. Where did this enemy come from? What is their end goal or motivation? Why can’t they repeat the process that made Cage special for others? But the film does a good enough job of distracting from these questions with its mix of grotesque and terrifyingly haunting beauty in the form of the Mimics, along with its skillfully choreographed action sequences.
Tom Cruise has rarely had a problem playing likeable characters over his 30 years as an actor, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this may be one of his most likeable roles yet.
Words By. Noel Ransome + Photos Courtesy Of. George Pimentel Photography