A world-wide war is waging against the alien race of Mimics, and Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is quite involuntarily stuck within. But a desperate suicide mission goes awry, and all of a sudden he lives to repeat this day again and again and again…
Humans united against the universe
Probably quite different from ‘normal’ war movies, this one doesn’t capitalise on current or past political issues, but adds a science-fiction component to it all that forces the whole human race to set aside their ‘petty conflicts’ amongst one another, and instead protect themselves from a foe from outer space – and the Mimics are quite the opponent. The film starts out with mimicking news reports, making the threat more real to the audience, and it is established early on that the situation is quite helpless – after all, and no spoilers here, everybody dies. At least once, twice, thrice… Actually, countless times. Quite understandably, William Cage is confused when he wakes up the very same morning to re-live the experience, with fairly little to do about it, but he soon meets Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a famous and highly skilled veteran, who manages to clear some things up for him…
Live. Die. Repeat.
This very appropriate tagline should find the heart and understanding of anyone who has ever played video games. Indeed, the film almost feels exactly like that: who hasn’t had the ‘pleasure’ of running into a group of enemies in a video game, and do the exact same thing again, only with a little more know-how this time around? And the third time around? And the fourth time around? It’s an interesting concept for a film, though, and the repetition of some scenes has, in some ways, a very ironic, humorous effect – and in other instances quite the opposite. Seeing so many people die inevitably time and again can feel quite heavy after a while and it only reinforces how used we are normally to seeing these pictures. Personally, I am not a fan of such ‘war’ movies, and I’m not a huge fan this time around either, but the interesting stylistic choices and the non-linearity of it all – after all, time-travel is cool – make up for the gruesome subject. You start to empathise a lot with the dear protagonist, who has to see his squad die in pretty much the same ways over and over again, and remembers, while nobody else does. After all, how difficult is it to face this strong, demanding Sergeant over and over again and get to know her better every ‘new’ day, but knowing full well that she doesn’t know him at all? And worse even, how many times can you see someone you love die before you just grow dead inside?
From coward to super soldier
Major Cage is the super weapon that nobody knows they have. Considered a coward by pretty much everyone else, this knowledge – and the knowledge that it all depends on you because you know what the future is like, and it’s not pretty – is a heavy burden. At times discouraged, at times determined, he is shown how to make the best of the situation despite the pressure that is on him. Of course there is another sub-plot next to the obvious ‘repeat the day’ one, and that is how to get past this day without anyone you really don’t want to die dying. Getting to know the enemy is crucial for that, and Cage gets to know them more and more extensively than he would probably care for.
Heavy to digest
The topic of the film and the whole atmosphere it conveys becomes quite depressing after a while, and although I warmly welcomed the science-fiction component, I believe it could still have had more depth. Of course the point was to convey the helplessness, the futility of it all, and the emotional cracks that appear in Cage’s personality as well as the warm spots that appear in Vrataski’s – but we don’t really know much about what has happened before, do we? Why are the Mimics attacking – and what is their deal, really? Although we do get some plot-crucial biological information about them, it would have been nice to actually get to know them better, even though that would have quite thwarted the film’s feeling. The film shows much potential for a complex science fiction world, but really, the sci-fi aspect is mainly used as the one plot device that the film revolves around: Live. Die. Repeat. Yes, they were some entertaining two hours, but I am not completely sold on it yet. It might be worth re-watching again after a while, but for me, personally, it was too much ‘war’ and too little ‘depth’, although the character progression (or shall we say, regression?) is fascinating to watch. But a really strong female character in such a movie, rather than being a simple supporting figure? That is quite something, and Sergeant Vrataski is someone you really do not want to annoy, trust me.
Certainly, though, entertaining, a lot of potential, great visuals and good acting – just maybe not something for every day…