Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 53 min.
Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 6; Language 4; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (0-5): 4
That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is;
How appropriate that this fresh addition to the sci-fi genre opens on D-Day, June 6! Much of the action involves soldiers invading Normandy again and desperately fighting to get off the beach where they are being slaughtered. In the not too distant future, as we see in the opening montage of news reports, aliens called Mimics have destroyed and taken over most of Europe and soon will be moving into England. However, soon the United Defense Forces will be invading Europe and defeating the enemy–or so the newscasters say.
In this Groundhog Day Meets Saving Pvt. Ryan film Tom Cruise plays Major Bill Cage who prefers the safety of his desk to the dangers of the battle field—he would be far more at home in Mad Men than Saving Pvt. Ryan. His job with the Army of late has been to appear on all the TV and cable networks assuring the public that the desperate situation in Europe is about to be remedied by a massive invasion. Recently, female soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) has scored the only victory over a Mimic using the just developed exo-skeleton armor/weaponry. She has become the poster soldier for the Army, dubbed “The Angel of Verdun.” Cage is confident that equipped with similar battle gear, humanity will prevail.
Humanity may prevail, but Cage is certain that it will prevail without his donning such gear and risking his precious neck. And then he meets with Gen. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) who does not at all take to him. The General orders him to the front where he can get pictures of the invasion, and when Cage demurs, the General orders him arrested and deposited in boot camp at Heathrow Airport where Master Sgt. Farell (Bill Paxton), addressing him as “Maggot,” escorts him to his squad. Reduced in rank and regarded as a deserter, Cage is not the most popular member, but he is given little time to brood over his predicament because soon he is suited up in the new battle gear and dropped onto the beach where thousands of troops are vainly trying to advance against the Mimics.
A note of humor in this episode is his lack of training in the use of his suit: he keeps asking how to remove the “Safety” from his weapons, but is ignored by everyone. They are too busy fighting and dying. He sees a helicopter falling toward one of his squad members, but is too late in his warning. The Angel of Verdun is close by fighting a Mimic. She dies in front of his eyes. The soldiers, even with their new battle suits, prove to be no match for the myriad of Mimics attacking them. Cage manages to kill one at such close range that its blood splashes all over him. Then he too dies.
He wakes up back at Heathrow. The sergeant again addresses him as Maggot and gives him the same lecture on courage and introduces him to the same men, even, as before, uncovering their card game they had hastily hid under a blanket. Back to the airdrop over Normandy, and all the other incidents occur as before. He again tries to warn his fellow soldier of the plummeting airship, and–. This time he gets a little further into the story, but dies and wakes up back at Heathrow. Using his knowledge of “the future,” he convinces the men that he is not crazy when he tells them about his mysterious fate. He even saves the life of Rita. But still, although he moves forward a bit, he dies. Then in one sequence, just before she dies, Rita says, “Find me when you wake up.”
Thus he goes to visit her back at Heathrow, discovering that she too had gone through his experience of being infected with the blood of a Mimic, but now has stopped, due, she is certain, to her having received a blood transfusion. She introduces him to a scientist friend who explains to him the nature of the Mimics and what has been happening to him. The Mimics consist of millions of small units controlled by alpha mimics, which in turn are controlled by a central mind that turns out to be quartered deep within the depths of the Louvre in Paris. Apparently the alpha or master mind is able to manipulate time so that it always knows what its human opponents’ battle plans will be.
During his moments with Rita back at Heathrow the latter tries to transform the soft desk sitter into a real soldier, but each time Cage fails in stopping the mechanical Mimics from getting the better of him. On the battlefield, when he and Rita are facing a dilemma, she sometimes pulls her pistol and kills him, starting the time loop all over again. It might seem strange to call such moments of killing off the hero funny, but the theater audience really enjoyed these moments!
Director Doug Liman and his screenwriters (Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth) have transferred Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need Is Kill into one of the best sci-fi films you are likely to see this year! The film boasts great special effects, and even better, fine acting by all concerned. Bill Cage’s transformation from battle-shirking heel to battle weary warrior who finds courage when needed is an enjoyable spiritual journey to watch. The action scenes are terrific, with superb editing that keeps us leaning forward to see what is coming—they are so intense that you might forget the popcorn. Even those who are not enamored with Tom Cruise and his off-screen antics probably will appreciate the film—how often do you get the chance to see this arrogant guy die several hundred times? This kind of film, with aliens depicted as either refusing or unable to communicate with humans, springs from our fear of the unknown. People of faith, who believe that sentient beings ought to be able to settle differences nonviolently might want to compare this film to ones that are based on a more positive view of the universe—such as Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the old classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The full review with a set of discussion questions will appear in the July issue of Visual Parables.