A sci-fi mash-up of Groundhog Day, Source Code, The Matrix, and Aliens, Tom Cruise is once again coming atcha with another summer blockbuster hit, but this time it’s got a little comedic teeth to it.
We start five years deep into Earth vs the Space Aliens war. They’ve taken just about all of Europe and are called the Mimics. They’re huge black multi-tentacled octopus/spider looking thingy’s that are very fast moving and shoot laser bolts. Their masters are called the Alphas, bigger blue Mimic’s with a roaring mouth that have a secret surrounding them, and their hidden leader, is called the Omega. These aliens are winning the war due do their strength in numbers and the ability to manipulate time travel to their advantage, something we don’t know about. Yet!
Enter U.S. Major William Cage (Cruise), a military P.R. rep who’s in England to help with Europe’s war efforts. But after a being labeled a coward by British Gen. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), Cage is quickly thrown into J-Squad, the soldier grunts ready to ship out to the beaches of Normandy the next day. Cage is unprepared to be a soldier and is slapped into an exo-skeleton war machine to do battle. He quickly notices the war efforts #1 killing hero: Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), aka, the “Angel of Verdun”, who single-handedly won a victory and earned her the title, “The Full Metal Bitch”. Yeah, she’s that good!
Anyway, Cage is dropped off on the beach in the heat of battle and is scared, bewildered, and completely out of his elements; surrounded by hundreds of dying men and crashing ships, not to mention being ambushed by tons of Mimics. Cage is soon killed by an Alpha Mimic just as he kills it, but the creature’s blue blood mixes with Cage’s and… POOF! Do you hear Sonny and Cher music?
Cage “wakes up”, starting his life over again when he was introduced to boot camp and a sergeant was yelling at him. Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome (Bill Paxton) gives Cage his itinerary… again… and Cage knows this is all way too familiar. He’s thrust back into battle again and killed. . . again. But he wakes up again and again to the same sergeant’s screams of “On your feet, maggot!!”. What is going on here? He tries to explain to Sergeant Farrell, but the sarge thinks he’s a looney. Only Rita believes him after Cage saves her life during one of the many battles he experiences. After a “reset”, Cage finds Rita in one of her wild (and very dangerous) training sessions and we find out she, too, was once infected with an Alpha’s blood and had a time-loop adventure of her own, but lost the ability. The only way to end the war is for Cage to train, continually die, come back, and fight until he learns through a vision where the Omega Mimic is hiding and kill it. Kill the Omega and the Mimic’s can’t control time and they all die. Sound’s simple, right? It isn’t!
Just how much of this can he take? Cage’s learning curve through hundred’s of deaths, reset’s, and more deaths is taking it’s toll on his mind. Plus, he’s slowly falling for Rita and can’t stand to see HER die every time as well! But all the while he’s turning from that cowardly desk jockey into one helluva killing machine in the interim. Then there’s the problem of those damn Mimic’s! Since they have the science of time-travel down, they already know what’s going to happen… or do they?
Based on the Japanese novel (All You Need Is Kill) by Hiroshi Sakirazaka, the screenplay was adapted by Christopher McQuarrie, and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. Directed by Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Jumper) really packs a wallop in the action pieces here, and noticeably gives the audience some humor in Cage’s multiple “death’s”. Cruise is at his best here, at first playing the anti-hero, then slowly stepping up to the plate and taking a major bite of the action pie. Blunt’s character is so steeped in war and anger that she doesn’t get to show off her humanity, which would have been nice to see her other side. She’s all business and no play. Gotta love Bill Paxton for his gruff Sergeant Ferrell and Southern twang, a throwback homage to his Aliens days aboard the starship Sulaco. Nice.
Then you got some decent looking aliens that look suspiciously like the multi-tenticled mechanical creatures from The Matrix Revolutions, but more organic and spidery. And fast. Damn fast. The Alpha’s are better looking , whereas their leader looks like Jell-0 gone bad. The time-travel plot, which I always have a problem with since no film every really gets it right, is manipulated to make it exactly what it needs to be at that moment. In other words, if you followed the time-travel logic in this film, none of it will make any sense. So, just buy your $37 popcorn and $15 Coca-Cola and suspend your disbelief for two hours and enjoy a pretty decent sci-fi action flick!
Groundhog Day (1993)
In this quintessential movie about time-looping, Bill Murray gets to show the many facets of his comedic and serious sides in this brilliant film written by Danny Rubin and the late, great Harold Ramis, who also directed.
It’s almost February 2nd – Groundhog Day – and Phil Connors (Murray), a self-centered, egotistical Pittsburgh weatherman, reluctantly has to go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to report on groundhog, “Punxsutawney Phil”, to see if he sees his own shadow. Phil is joined by his wisecracking cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliott) and beautiful news producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell). But things start to go Twilight Zone weird when Phil keeps waking up at 7am every morning to the tune of Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You, Babe” on the radio, and back in his hotel room, despite where or what he did the night before.
Yes, he’s stuck in a time-loop and haunted by reoccurring occurrences: like the bum on the street asking for money and the hotel guests, but none so irritating or exasperating as the overly happy and joyful insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson (“Y’know, “Ned the Head, Needlenose Ned? Bing!) played with memorable gusto by Stephen Tobolowsky.
As time goes on (or doesn’t, depends on how you look at it) Phil soon goes through the five stages of his bizarre experience: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. After trying to kill himself several times, even going as far as kidnapping (critter-napping?) Punxsutawney Phil from his handler (big brother, Brian Doyle-Murray), Phil tries a different tact: use the time-loop to remember facts about people and use them to his advantage… more specifically, to sleep with them. He beds Nancy Taylor (Marita Geraghty), but secretly lusts in his heart for Rita… unfortunately all his wooing and time-looping tricks don’t work on her.
He accepts his fate as a sort of punishment and decides to turn his life around. He becomes an incredible piano player, an ace ice sculptor, a French poet-spewing reporter, and a friend to all in this little town. But most of all, he finally wins the heart of Rita by simply being the real man he was supposed to be all along. That breaks the “spell” and Phil wakes the next day with Rita by his side; a glorious day outside, his inner peace found, and a perfect ending to this movie.
The original script has several beginnings and endings to the movie. In one case, Phil’s time-loop was caused by a witch’s spell put on him because he dissed her as he left the newsroom! Another ending (which I would have hated) had Phil and Rita waking up on February 3rd and Rita was now trapped in her own time loop! WTH?? What did SHE ever do wrong?
Controversy has been spinning around this movie for decades as to how many days or years did Phil Conners spend in his loop? For years Ramis said Phil was stuck for there ten years, but then later recanted and said, “No, it was more like 30-40 years”. Whether 10 or 40 years, this enduring film has become a perennial TV icon every February and a favorite movie with the U.S. military forces!
Groundhog Day has even been dubbed by some religious leaders as the “most spiritual film of our time”. The film has become a favorite of Buddists because they see “themes of selflessness and rebirth as a reflection of their own spiritual messages”. The Catholics, meanwhile, see Phil’s time loop as his time spent in Purgatory and making amends. Makes perfect sense!
Side note: Stephen Sondheim was asked in 2008 to make a musical adaptation of Groundhog Day. He declined. BUT! In January 2014, this musical project is currently being was being worked on by Tim Minchin and Matthew Warchus (they both wrote Broadway’s Mathilda, the Musical).