In ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ repetition offers a form of grace

In Tom Cruise’s latest film, the ability to relive a day is transformative for the lead character.

By Michael Parnell

Tom Cruise is not the box office draw he once was. His last seven movies have not made it past the $100 million mark that declares a hit.

Cruise has a problem. He keeps playing the same kind of a character over and over. That character is generally a jerk who has to mature by the end of the movie. He repeats that role in his latest, Edge of Tomorrow, but is aided by a good director and a familiar storyline. This makes for a satisfying summer movie.

Cruise is a public relations officer (Major Cage) in the Army. The story is set in the future as Earth is being systematically attacked by an alien race called the Mimics. At the beginning we see him in front of cameras describing the conflict, attempting to sell the war.

When called in to see General Brighman (Brendan Gleeson), he is informed he is being sent to the front to report directly on the war. Being a coward, he attempts to run.

Cage is caught and knocked unconscious, and awakens in an intake station. Reduced to a private, he is placed in a combat group, which will be the first on the beachhead to fight, where he is killed in battle. But something happens. He awakens again at the intake station. The day repeats itself, as if nothing has happened, but he is aware of what went on before.

This sounds like Groundhog Day, and it is. Cage finds that no matter how he dies, he comes back to where he started.

During one of those days, he meets Rita (Emily Blunt), the hero of a previous battle. She tells him that when he awakens he needs to find her. When he does, she tells him she had the same experience in the previous battle. She has lost her ability to reset the day, but that ability is the key to winning the war against the Mimics. From there, Cage and Rita try to learn from their mistakes in the battle so they can advance to the place where the enemy can be defeated.

There is much here that can be discussed from a theological point of view.

One aspect is that focusing on the present moment allows for greater understanding of the circumstances around us. Dallas Willard has written that the greatest spiritual problem today is hurry. When we hurry, we lose focus and get an inflated sense of self that keeps us from doing our best or from learning. Cage uses his repeated days to focus on and learn from the minutiae that escape him in previous attempts.

Another aspect is the repeating of days. This is, at first, a curse but becomes a blessing as Cage grows into the person needed to defeat the enemy. It’s a form of grace. No matter how badly he does, he always gets a “do over.” That is what grace does — it allows us to “do over” when we sin. Paulo Coelho wrote, “When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore. It is a decision.” Cage has to learn that when he repeats his mistakes, it is because he has not learned.

The largest area for discussion is the difference between kairos and chronos. As he repeats the days, Cage realizes each is a time in which he can learn something new.

Kairos is God’s time, a time in which the passing of the seconds of each minute is more important than just another minute being gone. Cage discovers something new and unique in each repeated day. Some small detail becomes a clue to new learning. It’s when he sees each repeated day as a new opportunity that he becomes who he is.

The kairos effect allows the coward to become a hero.

Edge of Tomorrow

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material

Directed by Doug Liman. Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, based on a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

With: Tom Cruise (Cage), Emily Blunt (Rita), Brendan Gleeson (Gen. Brigham), Bill Paxton (Sgt. Farrell)

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.