12 Big Questions Left Unanswered By ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

By  · Published on June 7th, 2014

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It may be the best action movie of the summer, but Edge of Tomorrow is far from perfect. Like most Hollywood blockbusters, the latest Tom Cruise vehicle has a good share of plot holes. And because it’s sci-fi, there are also a lot of questions left over that maybe even the screenwriters can’t explain. It’s no Oblivion, of course. Where that got overly convoluted with its Moon-like reveal, this one is still easier to figure out than its own Duncan Jones-directed precursor.

Not that anyone is referencing Source Code so much as Groundhog Day. The classic time-loop comedy left us with a ton of questions of its own, yet in a fun way, proof that just because we make one of these lists for a movie doesn’t mean we necessarily think it’s bad. There is a ton to love about Edge of Tomorrow, for instance, including its energy and its surprisingly suitable self-aware humor.

But it almost loses a lot of us in that ending. There’s much to discuss about that, and in fact many of our questions below are devoted to elements of the third act, with a couple directed at the last few minutes. Maybe the key is that we need to watch the movie again and again and again until we get it all. Maybe there’s an appropriate trick involved where things become clearer in retreading. Is Edge of Tomorrow itself a game? Or is it just a little too complicated and also a little too sloppy?

Obviously, everything beyond this line involves spoilers for Edge of Tomorrow. Enter at your own risk.

1. Why Did General Brigham Send Cage Into Battle?

This question isn’t hard on a surface level. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) sent Cage (Tom Cruise) into battle because he wanted him punished, likely in the form of quick death on the beach at Normandy. He didn’t like Cage’s cowardice or especially his blackmail attempt, and this was his way of getting back at a guy with rank but no experience, a position he clearly didn’t care for. So why let him waste a battle suit and risk the lives of others who could be lost due to Cage’s certain incompetency? At least find a way to throw him into the front without weaponry like the Soviets did when they just needed extra bodies on the field.

2. How Did Nobody Recognize Cage From All His Media Appearances?

At the start of the movie, we’re treated to an expository montage of background information courtesy of news footage, including talk shows where Cage is a spokesperson for the conflict against the aliens. The easy answer is to accept that none of the soldiers he encounters were privy to television enjoyment recently. There’s also the possibility that at least Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton) does know who Cage is and why he’s there, and he’s just following Brigham’s orders. Again, though, he must also be concerned for himself and his squads by having an untrained person joining them on the battlefield.

3. Why Does Farrell Have His First Name On His Uniform?

I didn’t notice what Paxton’s character’s name is listed as in the credits, but most reference sites give him the full moniker of Major Sergeant Farrell Bartolome. That’s a name right out of the source material, Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s illustrated novel, “All You Need is Kill.” For the movie, it’s possible that he was just named Farrell, and that’s his last name, and therefore it’d make sense to be on the front of his uniform. Otherwise, that could be an oversight on the part of the filmmakers.

4. Is There Any Need For Noah Taylor’s Character?

Noah Taylor plays a scientist named Dr. Carter, who was working on a breakthrough in how to defeat the aliens, but for some odd reason instead of being encouraged in his project he was labeled a nutty old kook and made to work as a mechanic or whatever. Oddly Brigham went easier on him, maybe because there was no blackmail involved. Anyway, never mind that there’s some sort of conspiracy Brigham is involved with in sweeping all these guys under the rug. Plot-wise, he’s a useless character. He mostly just stands there while Rita (Emily Blunt) explains everything to Cage, so why bother with him at all? The question is especially worth asking later when we’re led to believe that Carter has to be the one to use his magic gizmo, but then it turns out Cage can just do it himself.

5. Why Does Brigham Keep Carter’s Gizmo In His Personal Safe Anyway?

It’s a small safe. A lot of other things could have been put in there. The gizmo is, as far as Brigham seems to believe, worthless. Why didn’t they just destroy it or leave it wherever, thinking it was nothing? Did he actually trust that it would have some value but he’s a warring type who would rather fight the old-fashioned way?

6. Where Was Jeremy Piven?

I guess his character was even more disposable than Taylor’s.

7. When Cage and Rita Go to J-Squad For Help, How Does Cage Know All Their Secrets?

At the time that our heroes go to the grunts for assistance on the final mission, Cage has lost his ability to reset if he’s killed. So apparently he already collected a bunch of very personal information about all the J-Squad members for this perfectly opportune situation? It doesn’t seem likely that he would have learned some of the things he knows in another run-through of the loop because there’s not a good reason why he’d have to use that knowledge. It’s particularly embarrassing or illegal information, too. In what scenario would Ford (Franz Drameh) have let it out that he stole another man’s identity?

8. Did Cage Lie About Losing His Ability?

The answer to the last question could be answered through a yes answer to this one. There’s actually a theory already developed that Cage did not receive enough of a blood transfusion to lose the ability to reset. Or, at least he’d gone through the final act numerous times before we see him lose the ability in the hospital – and we do see the power leave him in that close-up of his eyes, or at least we’re meant to see it that way. Evidence that he’s been through the final mission before include the stuff with J-Squad addressed above plus many moments where he appears to still be going through choreographed moves. You can find the theory arguing for that answer at Reddit.

9. How Does Cage Go Back Again At the End?

Besides the fact that Warner Bros. isn’t going to let this be another I Am Legend type ending, and Cruise probably has it in his contract that he doesn’t die in his movies (even when one variation of him sacrifices himself in a movie, there are clones involved…), the explanation for this question is that he became soaked in the Omega’s blood and so then received its time-traveling powers. Okay, but if the Omega has that power in its blood, too, wouldn’t it be able to reset, too, or on its own? Okay, let’s not get into all that. It probably won’t ever make sense to me. I need Noah Taylor back on screen to explain the point of the different rank of aliens and what control over time they have. Let’s just consider Cage’s receiving its ability and being able to reset again. That leads us to some other questions…

10. How Are the Aliens Defeated Already When Cage Goes Back a Day Before He Defeated Them?

Logic would state that Cage resetting again would mean that he has to play the game at least one more time and try not to get any blood on him then. Or just live in a loop forever, which would be fine so long as he keeps getting to spend it with Rita and so long as whatever is beyond his loop is victory for humanity. That probably would have been a fine way to end it. But instead there’s mention that there was an explosion in Paris and now suddenly the aliens aren’t fighting back and so will be easily defeated. Shouldn’t that not happen until the following day? At least it’s not a total sign of defeat yet, and it does seem that the Normandy landing will still occur in the morning, only without much effort and probably no casualties – except maybe for guys slamming into each other in the sky during the drop.

11. Does Rita Remember Cage At the End?

According to that same theory from Reddit, it doesn’t make sense for Rita not to address Cage with respect toward his officer rank, just as everyone else in the room had. Her words are a sort of joke to show she’s aware, and that’s why Cage laughs. I don’t buy it, though, and I’m sure most people won’t even if they buy the other parts of the theory.

12. Why Does Every Alien Race In These Movies Have To Involve a Hive Mind?

The hive mind or central operating system thing is overdone. We saw it in Independence Day where blowing up one ship killed the switch on all the others. We saw it in The Avengers, a bit in Battle: Los Angeles, plus Star Trek: First Contact, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, I Robot, Ender’s Game and even Cruise’s last sci-fi movie, Oblivion. Obviously it’s an easy way to win the war in these invasion attempts, but it’s getting really old.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.