This movie was recommended to me by a friend and so going in my expectations were set slightly higher than normal for a Tom Cruise flick and, I’m happy to report, exceeded at every level.
The movie was both fun and funny, while at the same time tightly-paced, full of action, and a bit of suspense. The violence was only PG-13, so those with more sensitive natures can revel in the action without the constant threat of being grossed out, without having to think too much of the “real” consequences of war or death. This is action fantasy not biting drama.
This older Tom Cruise, who is more willing to laugh at himself as an action hero, is much more enjoyable to watch than when he was less humble. And Emily Blunt was a complete surprise and absolute delight. I’d only ever seen her before in The Devil Wears Prada and I’d never have thought to cast her in an action movie. But her deadpan, impatient seriousness crosses over to this role nicely, and it’s wonderful to see her as the trainer not just the trainee. I’m glad that they skipped gratuitous sentimentality, or fake character development via a back-story of past trauma.
Instead the film stays very focused on experiencing the present moment in a way that is imperative when dealing with an altered experience of time.
The movie plays out like a video game, as the tagline says, “Live. Die. Repeat.” Game over simply means restart and run through the game levels with the knowledge, experience, and skill gained from previous iterations. The structure is a given but the player has a certain amount of agency in navigating it.
I was very interested in the concept of repeatedly dying. The movie shows each death as a quick (and seemingly painless) obliteration, followed by being startled awake as if out of a nightmare. It suggests that if you know your death is just a reset of the day, that dying itself is no big deal. But I think it must be just the opposite. If you remember everything, doesn’t that make it more difficult to put yourself in the position to experience the same the pain and suffering?
The middle section of the film, where the day is reset over and over again while Tom Cruise adapts and trains, seemed analogous to the nightmares people with PTSD experience. But the film does not enter that dark territory; it’s not intended to be that kind of movie. Death is painless and immediate. When you hit Game Over, you just restart.
The other concept that interested me was how the person who relived the day dealt with being forced into the role of Cassandra, foreseeing doom but unable to convince anyone else.
There was a poignancy, too, in remembering when no one else did. It’s like loving someone with Alzheimer’s, someone who does not remember when you first met or how many times you’ve had a certain conversation…getting to know someone over the course of months or years, only to wake to a new day where they see you as a stranger.