Year 8, Day 83 - 3/23/16 - Movie #2,283
BEFORE: While I was watching February romance films, the part of the watchlist that's made up of action movies kept growing bigger and bigger - I think it's the biggest category now, so I'm going to spend the rest of the month chipping away at it. (Actually, I don't call it "action", for me it's "Crime / Spies / War", but the end result is the same.) But it's sort of like playing Whack-a-Mole, if I can get this category under control, then Comedy or Classics or Sci-Fi/Superhero is going to start taking over the list. I do what I can.
Tom Cruise carries over from "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation", sometimes it's just that simple, and I don't have to go wading through a long list of credits.
THE PLOT: A military officer is brought into an alien war against an
extraterrestrial enemy who can reset the day and know the future. When
this officer is enabled with the same power, he teams up with a Special
Forces warrior to try and end the war.
AFTER: The "elevator pitch" for this film is so obvious - it's "Independence Day" meets "Groundhog Day". But damn it, it works. Cruise's character is gifted/cursed with the ability to re-start the day every time he dies, whether that's a gruesome death in combat, or an intentional murder or suicide as a sort of reset button. This not only gives him an infinite amount of time to train and plan, but also a chance to defeat any situation via trial and error (mostly error), then he just has to do everything exactly the same again, right up until that point, and then make a better choice.
This use of time-travel as problem-solving device appears to be an ability held by the alien invaders, at least some of them, referred to as the "Alphas". Any time an Alpha alien is killed, he uses this innate power to start the day again, as an automatic tactical advantage, while retaining knowledge of what went wrong last time, in order to react to that same situation in a better way. So one assumes that the aliens have used this to take over planet after planet, and even though we never really find out what they're after (food? water? land? slaves?) when Cage (cruise) blows one up and gets coated with its time-traveling blood, he finds out that he's gained the ability as well.
Never mind that it's a major NITPICK POINT that killing this Alpha alien, by the terms and definitions the movie presents to us, should have reset the day in favor of the alien - why this didn't happen as it was supposed to is a little unclear. Come to think of it, if there are a bunch of Alpha aliens and they all have this ability to reset the day, and it works the way we think it does, then there wouldn't even BE a chance for humans to fight back. Every time the humans attack, they'd tip their hand about when and where they strike, then the Alphas just need to reset the day and kill the humans five minutes before the attack. Game over, movie over.
But, no, you've got to give humanity a fighting chance, I get that. So Cage tries every method he knows, day after day after day. Fighting, not fighting, talking to the generals, not talking to the generals, staying with his squad, going AWOL, opening up a little coffee shop, settling down with a nice girl and raising a couple kids, but nothing works against these aliens, so he figures his time is best invested in training to be the best soldier he can be, then dying in battle to reset and try again. Jeez, did he even TRY sending them a bomb in the mail, like the Road Runner, or dressing up like a beautiful woman, like Bugs Bunny?
I'm not being fair here, because a cartoon isn't really the best comparison. This is more like a first-person shooter video-game, where the player can keep trying the battle level over and over, until he makes the right moves or makes enough kills to win the level. And just like a video-game, there's a "Big Boss" at the end, because in addition to the Alpha aliens, there's an Omega alien, and Cage has to get himself off that battlefield, where he can't win (turns out...) and bring the fight to the Big Boss in order to win the game.
There's another great NITPICK POINT regarding the time-travel process listed on IMDB, but it gives too much away, so I won't reveal it here. But what about Cage being a major in the army, who somehow got to his position without any real army training? Is that even possible? He mentions being an ROTC soldier in college, but doesn't that mean he at least went through ROTC training? Surely you don't get to a high-rank position by just coasting and doing paperwork, you have to earn promotions somehow, right? Admittedly, I don't know much about army regulations, but it just doesn't seem like you can slack off or slide by in the military. I get why they did this, to highlight his need for training to fight the aliens, but even if he had started with some basic military skill, I don't think it would have taken much away from his need for specialized combat training.
That's three nights of dealing with spies, terrorists and now aliens (I'm counting "Deadpool" in that lot) - is it any wonder why I'm so tired?
Also starring Emily Blunt (last seen in "The Devil Wears Prada"), Brendan Gleeson (last seen in "28 Days Later"), Bill Paxton (last seen in "2 Guns"), Noah Taylor (last seen in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"), Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, with a cameo from Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
RATING: 7 out of 10 drop ships