Monday, May 18, 2015

Edge of Tomorrow Review - An atheist parable?

Warning: Contains Spoilers! 

Last year, I saw the Tom Cruise actioner 'Edge of Tomorrow' but it's taken me this long to write a review. Better late than never!

A well-crafted sci-fi movie that doesn't disappoint, the story is Groundhog Day meets Aliens with a small dose of Saving Private Ryan. Despite being a great film, it didn't fare so well at the box office and they even ended up changing the title of the film on some DVDs to Live. Die. Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow for a weird reason. It's another example of original films not performing as well as sequels or remakes, which is a shame.

An alien species - the Mimics - have crash-landed into central Europe and have spread outward exterminating the human population as they advance, presumably intending to wipe out everyone on the planet. Before long they will have reached the Atlantic coast, but a vast army has been mobilised in England to counter-attack in a 21st century version of D-Day. Instead of landing ships they have quadcopter troop carriers and instead of rifles or machine guns they have Exo-skeleton battle suits (which are pretty nifty).

Cruises's character, William Cage, is forced against his will to join the assault, despite having no training or combat experience, and we follow his terrifying journey as a completely unprepared rookie into the warzone. About five minutes into the melee he comes face to face with one particular type of Mimic, an 'Alpha', and is killed instantly.

But it's not over. Suddenly Cage finds himself back in England, having seemingly traveled back in time to the day before the landings. Repeating everything again, he is killed on the French beaches once more only to wake up back where he started. It turns out that his continuous dying and resurrection stems from his initial encounter with the Alpha Mimic – these aliens have the power to reset time and are presumably using this ability to help them win the war.

Cage teams up with Emily Blunt's character Rita Vrataski, an elite soldier from previous battles, after he discovers she once had the same ability to time jump. This gives him and the rest of humanity an unusual tactical advantage. By repeating things over and over, he can quickly improve his fighting skills and work out how to defeat the Mimics.

If you've seen the excellent Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, you'll be familiar with the time loop concept and it is convincingly employed here. The direction is nice and tight, avoiding any confusions that could potentially arise from a time travel scenario. It combines intense action-scenes with slower-paced moments with ease and doesn't take itself too seriously with instances of wit and humour.

I have to be honest and admit that I'm not always the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to the underlying themes of movies. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don't and sometimes I need a clever person to explain things to me very slowly without too many big words. It's just the way I am. In this case, I've pondered and mulled over Edge of Tomorrow and reckon I've got a reasonable theory about what the film's message. I think the film is about the decline of religion - the triumph of science and reason over faith and old-world mysticism. More specifically, I believe Christianity is the main target, although other religions are not entirely excluded.

From what I remember, there is no explicit reference to the Christian faith or any religion for that matter. Instead, we are presented with a technologically advanced humanity packing some serious firepower. They are up against the Mimics: an interesting word - mimicry is all about the art or action of imitation. What are the mimics supposed to be imitating? Humans? Truth? Or is it simply that they are representing something false i.e. religion?

The alien Cage encounters is an 'Alpha', and his ultimate goal is to destroy the 'brain' of the Mimics - the 'Omega'. Chapter 22 of Revelation in the Christian Bible says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." [Revelation 22:13]

Could this be the underlying message of the film? That reason and science will ultimately be victorious over outdated modes of belief?

In these times, it's certainly not surprising to find such a theme in the mainstream media. The assumption is that faith is in decline in the West and that science, logic and reason have been established as a more sensible replacement. Of course, this assumption doesn't take into account the growth of Christianity and other faiths outside the Western hemisphere, particularly China. Further, claiming rationality as the sole property of anyone without a faith is pretty narrow minded. Despite what Nietzsche has said, and what films like Edge of Tomorrow try to proclaim, God (or religion) isn't dead – at least, not just yet.

This film is great fun, and I'd highly recommend it. It's not perfect, but when you've got glorious battle scenes with soldiers in exo-suits fighting aliens on beaches, that's OK.

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