Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Edge of Tomorrow" (2014)

Twenty or thirty years ago, the concept of this film would have boggled minds, but today it is almost old hat. So it is a little surprising that it is being hailed as being so “intelligent.” Not that it is dumb, but audiences have been conditioned to understand these time travel—or perhaps more like time trap—stories by now.

Unlike the Twilight Zone ("Shadow Play"), or that episode from season six of The X Files ("Monday"), or the film “Groundhog Day,” however, this film does not use its conceit to any deeper end. It is merely an action flick with no deeper ambitions.

Whereas all those previous takes on this situation—a person trapped into living the same day over and over—used that hell of an existence to force a character to learn a lesson, this film does not see its character’s dilemma as a hell. In many ways it is his salvation. Those other stories presented a hell where the character would welcome death as an escape. Here death is just a reset. And therein lies the clue as to why this story is so easy for audiences to grasp today. It is a video game where the player actually dies with abandon to learn all the right moves to make his way through the game.

That is also where this movie loses the viewer—or at least viewers looking for a story. There are zero stakes. We all know the hero is going to be given limitless opportunities to get things right. No failure has any consequence. And, we begin to suspect early on that any ultimate success will grant a reward, likely in the form of an ultimate reboot. So, we have no concerns in the end when our main characters embark on their “suicide” mission.

Some would try to argue that Cruise’s character does learn a lesson and change over the curse of the story. But that change takes all of about five minutes and occurs as soon as he first realizes he is in a loop. We do not see a process in his change. He does not really learn a lesson. He was a coward and then he discovered he could not die. This is not a case of a man overcoming fear, but rather losing any need to fear. Those are not the same thing.  I was hoping for more.

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