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Read about our methodology here.
Read about our methodology here.
While TIME’s editors will choose the TIME 100 — our annual list of the most influential people in the world — we want readers to have a say too. Cast your vote here for the people who you think have changed the world this past year, for better or worse.
Ready to cast your vote? Comment on any TIME Facebook post that includes #TIME100, tweet your vote using #TIME100 or head over to Time.com’s TIME 100 voting hub, where Pinnion’s technology is recording, visualizing and analyzing results as they are received. Votes from Twitter, Facebook and Time.com’s voting hub are pooled together to create the totals displayed on the site.
Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on April 10, and the winner of our reader poll will be announced April 13. This year’s official TIME 100 list will be announced April 16.
2NE1: Francois Guillot—AFP/Getty Images; Abe: Tomohiro Ohsumi—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Abrams: Charley Gallay—NBC/Getty Images; Adelson: Ethan Miller—Getty Images; al-Abadi: Philippe Wojazer—Reuters; al-Assad: Joseph Eid—AFP/Getty Images; al-Baghdadi: AP; Alakija: Bennett Raglin—Getty Images; Alba: Jason Merritt—Getty Images; Ansari: Allen Berezovsky—WireImage/Getty Images; Barra: Patsy Lynch—Corbis; Beyoncé: Gary Hershorn—Reuters; Bezos: David Ryder—Getty Images; bin Abdulaziz Al Saud: Fahad Shadeed—Reuters; Brady: Kevin C. Cox—Getty Images; Bush: Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Castro: Reuters; Chan: Adrian Wyld—AP; Chen: Jason Kempin—Getty Images; Chesky: Kim Kulish—Corbis; B. Clinton: Slaven Vlasic—FilmMagic/Getty Images; H. Clinton: John Moore—Getty Images; Clooney: Karwai Tang—WireImage/Getty Images; Cook: Brooks Kraft—Corbis; Cooper: Ben Gabbe—Getty Images; Copeland: Gary Gershoff—Getty Images; Cox: Brad Barket—Getty Images; Cruz: Tony Gutierrez—AP; Cumberbatch: Jeff Vespa—Getty Images; Curry: Rick Bowmer—AP; Daniels: Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Davis: Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images; de Blasio; Andrew Burton—Getty Images; de Kirchner: Juan Mabromata—AFP/Getty Images; Dimon: Jason Reed—Reuters/Corbis; DuVernay: Jason Merritt—Getty Images; Drake: Jason Merritt—Getty Images; el-Sisi: Maxim Shemetov—EPA/Corbis; Erdogan: Sean Gallup—Getty Images; Fallon: Douglas Gorenstein—NBC/Getty Images; Fauci: Alex Wong—Getty Images; Fiorina: Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images; Francis: Franco Origlia—Getty Images; Frieden: Brian Cahn—ZUMA Press; Gaga: Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images; Ghani: Dan Kitwood—Getty Images; Ginsburg: Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Goodell: Leon Halip—Getty Images; Grande: Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images; H. Green: Imeh Akpanudosen—Getty Images; J. Green: Richard Drew—AP; Hari: Sean Busher—Courtesy of Vani Hari; Hart: Charley Gallay—Getty Images; Hastings: Justin Sullivan—Getty Images; Henson: Bennett Raglin—Getty Images; Hoffman: Tobias Hase—DPA/AP; Huang: Richard Shotwell—Invision/AP; Iger: Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images; E. James: Danny Martindale—WireImage/Getty Images; L. James: Kevin C. Cox—Getty Images; B. Jenner: Ethan Miller—Getty Images; K. Jenner: Jason Carter Rinaldi—WireImage/Getty Images; Jonathan: Frank Franklin II—AP; Jun: Sun Xinming—Imaginechina/AP; Kalanick: Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Kardashian: Mark Davis—Getty Images; Kejriwal: Chandradeep Kumar—India Today Group/Getty Images; M. Kelly: Mario Anzuoni—Reuters; S. Kelly: David J. Phillip—AP; Kendrick: Mike Marsland—WireImage/Getty Images; Kerry: Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images; Koch: AP; Getty Images; Koenig: Meredith Heuer; Kondo: AP; Lai: Mike Clarke—AFP/Getty Images; Lama: Ashwini Bhatia—AP; Lambert: Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Lee: Rob Carr—AP; Linklater: Dan MacMedan—WireImage/Getty Images; Liu: Natacha Buhler—MSF; Ma: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images; Madonna: Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images; Margulies: Frazer Harrison—Getty Images; Mayer: Laurent Gillieron—AP; McConnell: Melina Mara—The Washington Post/Getty Images; McDonald: Walter McBride—WireImage/Getty Images; McGraw: Larry Busacca—Getty Images; McIlroy: Andrew Redington—Getty Images; Merkel: T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images; Meyer: Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images; Michaels: Frazer Harrison—Getty Images; Minaj: Jason Merritt—Getty Images; Mock: Robin Marchant—Getty Images; Modi: Alex Wong—Corbis; Moore: JB Lacroix—WireImage/Getty Images; Mota: Mark Davis—Getty Images; Murakami: Michal Cizek—AFP/Getty Images; Murthy: Charles Dharapak—AP; Musk: Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Nadella: Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images; Netanyahu: Dan Balilty—AP; Nieto: Miguel Tovar—Getty Images; Nolan: Matt Sayles—AP; Nyong’o: Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images; B. Obama: Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images; M. Obama: Kristoffer Tripplaar—Sipa/AP; Oliver: Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Paul: Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images; Perry: Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images; PewDiePie: Suhaimi Abdullah—Getty Images; Piketty: Eric Piermont—AFP/Getty Images; Poroshenko: Suhaimi Abdullah—Getty Images; Power: Allan Tannenbaum—DPA/AP; Pratt: Stuart C. Wilson—Getty Images; Putin: Sasha Mordovets—Getty Images; Ramos: Andy Kropa—Getty Images; Rhimes: Casey Rodgers—AP; Rihanna: Angela Weiss—Getty Images; Roberts: Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images; Rodriguez: Mark Davis—Getty Images; Ronaldo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce—Getty Images; Rousey: Jeff Bottari—Zuffa LLC/Getty Images; Rousseff: Ueslei Marcelino—Reuters; Rubio: Charles Ommanney—Getty Images; Sandberg: Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Sarkeesian: Alex Lazara—AP; Schultz: Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images; Schumer: Jeffrey Mayer—WireImage/Getty Images; Shah: Mahesh Kumar A.—AP; Shekau: AP; Silver: Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images; Smith: Dave J. Hogan—Getty Images; Stanton: Michael Stewart—WireImage/Getty Images; Stewart: Victoria Will—AP; Steyer: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Swift: Christopher Polk—Getty Images; Teigen: Jason Merritt—Getty Images; Tisci: Jennifer Graylock—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Tsipras: Lemouton Stephane—Sipa; Un: Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images; von Furstenberg: Evan Agostini—AP; Walker: Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images; Wambach: Alexander Hassenstein—FIFA/Getty Images; Wang: Monica Schipper—Getty Images; Warren: Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Watson: Mike Marsland—WireImage/Getty Images; West: Francois Mori—AP; Whitman: Kyle Green—AP; Widodo: Dimas Ardian—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Wilmore: Slaven Vlasic—Getty Images; Winfrey: Paul Redmond—WireImage/Getty Images; Witherspoon: Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images; Wojcicki: Kimberly White—Getty Images; Wong: Lam Yik Fei—Bloomberg/Getty Images; Xi: Jason Lee—Reuters; Yellen: Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images; Yousafzai: Carlo Allegri—Reuters; Zuckerberg: Kazuhiro Nogi—Reuters
Shame on you, Hollywood designers who refused to dress Melissa McCarthy! The Bridesmaids star recently revealed in an interview with Redbook that she went ahead with her own plus-size clothing line because when she asked fashion designers to dress her for the Oscars, they all said no.
“When I go shopping, most of the time I’m disappointed,” the star told Redbook. “Two Oscars ago, I couldn’t find anybody to do a dress for me. I asked five or six designers—very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people—and they all said no.”
Names! We want names! Who would dare turn down Melissa McCarthy?
But if that kind of short-sightedness on the part of designers means we will have another influential woman in the fashion industry, it’ll be a win for everyone in the end. Plus we can’t way to see what McCarthy comes up with.
The movies on most critics’ annual 10 Best lists tend to be released late in the calendar year, when studios release their prestige Oscar bait. The first half of 2014, though, has brought a rich harvest of distinguished, challenging and just plain fun films in the indie, animation, documentary and blockbuster categories. My greedy wish: that the second half is even more bountiful.
Gustav H. (Ralph Fiennes) is the perfect concierge for a sumptuous hotel in an imaginary Eastern Europe country about to surrender its luxe to the brutes of war. Wes Anderson’s masterpiece is a dizzyingly complex machine whose workings are a delight to behold.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller turn those blocky, personality-deficient toys into living, lovable movie stars. It’s the best animated feature since — well, Frozen, but you know what we mean.
(READ: Review of The LEGO Movie)
In the 1970s, nutsy auteur Alexander Jodorowsky planned a lavish movie of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. It never got made, but this enthralling documentary shows that, at 83, Jodorowsky still has the power of a mad artist.
(READ: Review of Jodorowsky’s Dune)
“Hail HYDRA!” whisper U.S. Senators loyal to Marvel Comics’ favorite Nazi social club. Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, turns Edward Snowden with way more muscles in this superior sequel — a thrill ride into paranoia.
Two-thousand-year-old vampires in love: that’s the super-suave duo played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, in Jim Jarmusch’s weirdly sweet love story for the ages.
(READ: Review of Only Lovers Left Alive)
Darren Aronofsky turns God’s first zookeeper into a survivalist who gets the Creator’s cleansing, destructive message in dreams. Russell Crowe lends a loopy magnificence to this dead-serious, madly ambitious Biblical epic.
(READ: Review of Noah)
From Crowe the eco-freak to Jesse Eisenberg the eco-terrorist. Instead of building an ark, he wants to blow up a dam. Kelly Reichardt’s political parable boils with silent rage and explodes with the violence of ideals gone wrong.
(READ: Review of Night Moves)
Tom Cruise, nearly 52 but still G.I.-Joe fit, is a soldier who must keep reliving — and redying in — a bloody battle with alien monsters in Europe. Private Ryan meets Groundhog Day in the early summer’s smartest action fantasy.
(READ: Review of Edge of Tomorrow)
Gay men take their anonymous pleasures at a French lakeside where a killer awaits. The tension has an icy grip in this gay spin on Rear Window, this Blowup on the beach.
(READ: Review of Stranger by the Lake)
My feta movie: Greek cheese and sleaze. Seven years after the homoerotic 300, cool, luscious Eva Green makes war a game both sexes can play, on nearly equal terms.
(READ: Review of 300: Rise of an Empire)
We have reached, believe it or not, the first crucial moment in the 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton has written a book. It will be launched, with Vesuvian hoopla, on June 10. Her schedule will be incredible for the weeks thereafter–an hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, for starters; Good Morning America the next morning; a town meeting with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. There will be joint appearances with Bill and Chelsea. And attention, Costco shoppers! Hillary Clinton will be signing copies of Hard Choices at Costco’s Arlington, Va., store on Saturday, June 14.
We are sure to be smothered by Hillary (or Hillary!, as an old campaign button had it) well past the summer solstice. There will be reviews and nonstop attempts to tease policy and controversy from the substance of the book, which concerns her time as Secretary of State. Her account of the Benghazi controversy has already been leaked. In it, she says she was “ultimately responsible” for the insufficient security at the consulate there, even though it was well below her pay grade. Happily, she fights back against the bizarre Republican campaign to find a scandal amid the tragedy. This is called getting out in front of the story, a common political strategy. Hard Choices is, like almost everything else Clinton, a campaign. How it is promoted and received will say a lot about the campaign to come, if it is to come.
As always, there will be a festering low road of speculation about Clinton herself, her health, her hair, her husband. And as always, a squalid tabloid underbuzz: Did she ask Chelsea to become pregnant to give her campaign a soft, grandmotherly tinge? Will new Whitewater papers reveal that the real estate deal was really a conspiracy to sell heroin? Monica Lewinsky has already reappeared and disappeared, coming out of seclusion to tell her story for the umpteenth time. The Clintons have long held an unprecedented primacy in academic journals and supermarket tabloids. That’s why we can’t take our eyes off them. They have big thoughts; they are creative policymakers who balance budgets; they care about the average guy, his widow and orphan. And yet their private world often seems laced with circus-sideshow overreach, both purposeful and accidental: Bill Clinton abandoned McDonald’s to become a vegan. Hillary’s top aide, Huma Abedin, married the tweeting exhibitionist Anthony Weiner.
Inevitably, there will be political speculation. Does this book mean she is running? Does her book tour prove that she “takes all the oxygen” out of the Democratic race? Is she “inevitable”? Is the Benghazi chapter “enough” to quiet the controversy? Will she learn to love the media–and will the media stop being so trashball in its Clinton coverage?
As a veteran Clinton watcher, I approach the coming spectacle with a combination of obsession, exhaustion, dread and exhilaration. This is going to be horrible fun–and crucial, as the Clintons always are. If she runs.
For the sake of magazine sales, let’s say she’s running. She’s got it locked, right? She’s the Democratic nominee at the very least, right? Ask any Republican and they’ll tell you she’s a cinch. They’ve already started their general-election campaign against her. Karl Rove is speculating that the fall she took at the end of her time as Secretary of State caused traumatic brain injury. Others fantasize that she conspired to have Lewinsky tell her story now, to get it out of the way–as if anything could. And congressional Republicans have dragged Benghazi back into public view, with stacked hearings that will amount, no doubt, to a hill of beans. Most Democrats think that she’ll not only waltz to the nomination but also crush anyone the Republicans put up, except maybe Jeb Bush–and hasn’t the Bush family saga become a moldy oldie over the decades?
But wait a minute. Aren’t the Clintons approaching their sell-by date too? Aren’t we about to become tired of their personal and policy baggage and retinue of overcaffeinated too-loyal aides spewing talking points on cable news? It can and will also be argued that the Clintons are out of touch with millennials and their handheld virtual society, out of touch with the growing populism of the Democratic Party, too closely aligned with Wall Street and untrammeled free trade, too hawkish, too closely aligned with an unpopular incumbent President. (Of course, Obama could easily rebound.) It can and will be argued, as always, that Hillary is stiff, programmed, overcautious. Exhibit A: her book-tour schedule.
It is possible, maybe even probable, that all these arguments will have the same effect on the Clinton juggernaut as a flea on a rhinoceros. Clinton is said to be the best-prepared politician to run for President in our lifetime, and that is probably true. She knows the issues, foreign and domestic; no one will outwonk her. She has the potential to run the table when it comes to big donors and endorsements. She has a presidential temperament–prudent, patient and tough. She is both funny and wise: ask anyone, Republican or Democrat, who has ever sat in a policy meeting with her. She started as a lousy stump politician but became a real trouper in the crucible of the 2008 primary campaign against Obama, especially in Pennsylvania, where she started hanging out in bars and bowling alleys and taught white working-class males that she was no quitter. Indeed, the lessons she learned in the 2008 primaries may be her quiet competitive advantage in 2016. Finally, she is a woman–an aspect of her candidacy that was foolishly underplayed by her advisers in 2008. As such, she lives in history.
Some presidential campaigns are about inevitability. Others are about energy. The best have both, but it’s rare: inevitability tends to crush energy. It makes candidates cautious. In 2000, George W. Bush raised a ton of money and secured a ton of endorsements. He was skating toward the nomination, according to the polls. “It’s amazing how close we came to losing,” says Matthew Dowd, who worked for Bush. “We were hanging on by our fingernails after McCain beat us by 18 points in New Hampshire, but McCain made some mistakes in South Carolina,” and Bush turned vicious, “and we were lucky to win.” Lest we forget: an inevitable candidate named Hillary Clinton was blindsided by Barack Obama’s energy in 2008.
Obama may be her greatest challenge in 2016 as well. It’s been reported that she has scrubbed Hard Choices for any negative references to the President. But any candidate following a two-term President has to figure out a “kinder, gentler” way to distinguish herself from her predecessor. People always want a change, a fact Al Gore and John McCain found out the hard way. It will be trickier if Obama remains unpopular. Inevitability is reality’s first casualty. If Obama makes a big mistake overseas or the economy flops, Clinton’s first job will be to say what she’d do differently, without offending the Democratic base who’ll remain loyal to the President no matter what.
Even if Obama successfully navigates his last two years in office, Clinton is likely to face more than one energy candidate in 2016. Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, profiled by Michael Scherer on page 36, is as entertaining as a presidential candidate should be allowed to be, and substantive too. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has a new book out–aha! (perhaps)–and is wowing the Democratic left at their partisan powwows. And former Virginia Senator Jim Webb–who also has a new book out, aha!–has not ruled out a presidential campaign. All three would challenge Clinton from the populist left, a force that is growing noisier within the party, if not more populous. The moderate governors, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, probably won’t run if Clinton does.
Any of the three populists could run an exciting and perhaps even successful campaign against Clinton. She has real vulnerabilities and, yes, hard choices to make on policies she is assumed to have inherited from her husband, especially regarding the primacy of Wall Street and free trade. Bill Clinton essentially deregulated Wall Street while he was President–repealing the Glass-Steagall laws and refusing to regulate the exotic derivatives that helped cause the stock-market crash of 2008. Will Hillary Clinton move away from those positions? Is she willing to walk away from the egregious buckraking and speechmaking she and her husband have done with the global megarich in the service of the Clinton Global Initiative? “If not, she’s red meat in this new age of economic populism,” says David “Mudcat” Saunders, a Democratic consultant who has been close to Jim Webb in the past.
I recently asked Webb what he saw when he looked at America a year after he left the Senate. “Groundhog Day,” he said. Nothing had changed. In his book I Heard My Country Calling, Webb writes about a country “governed by a club of insiders who manipulate public opinion in order to serve the interests of hidden elites who hold the reins of power.” That could be a call to arms for Democratic populists and Tea Partyers alike. It is a bit over the top–hidden elites?–but it is a voice to be reckoned with in a ticked-off America.
There is also a bubbling-up of what the historian Fred Siegel calls gentry liberals, the old alliance of guilt-ridden limousine riders and (mostly African-American) minority groups who are itchy to file grievances again after 50 years of remarkable progress. A 2003 Brookings Institution study showed that if you graduate from high school, wait until marriage to have no more than two babies and have a job (any job, and there are plenty out there), the chances of your living in poverty are 3.7%. Those sorts of stats–and there are plenty of others like them–are downplayed by a new generation of African-American activists and by mayors like New York City’s Bill de Blasio, who has lifted some of the work requirements imposed by Bill Clinton for people on welfare. The left argues that times have changed. The economy has changed. It’s harder to get a job. Will Clinton modify her long-held positions on welfare and the importance of two-parent families?
Then there is her foreign policy. Robert Gates’ fabulously candid memoir about his time as Secretary of Defense has some juicy tidbits–like the fact that Clinton stood to his right on the Afghan surge in 2009. He favored adding 30,000 more troops; Clinton and General Stan McChrystal favored 40,000. Her support of the war in Iraq, except for the 2007 surge there, is also on the record–but Gates has her admitting that her opposition to the surge was “political.”
That is probably the ultimate argument against Clinton. She can be prohibitively “political” and far more cautious than she needs to be. The trouble is, presidential campaigns can’t be managed like book tours. They tend to be overwhelmed by events and trivialities. There is a constant gotcha contest with the press. In a recent Politico article about Clinton and the press, one of her advisers is quoted: “Look, she hates you. Period. That is not going to change.” To make things worse, her top communications adviser, Phillippe Reines, argued that Clinton didn’t really hate the press. She brought bagels to the back of the bus. But bringing bagels to the back of the bus is an embarrassingly transparent ploy. Bringing candor to the back of the bus might be a little more successful. I’ve seen her candor more than once, but always off the record. That will have to change. If Hillary Clinton hopes to succeed, she’s going to have to drop the veil–spontaneously, quite possibly in a crucial moment, like a debate–and trust the public to accept who she really is. Absent that, there is no such thing as inevitability.
Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original band of Navajo Native Americans whose code helped the Allies win World War II, died Wednesday. He was 93 and suffered from kidney failure, Reuters reports.
Nez was one of the original 29 Navajo recruited by the Marine Corps to develop a secret code based on their native language for use in wartime communication. Because the language is unwritten, spoken only in the American Southwest and known to less than 30 non-Navajo people, Reuters reports, American forces accurately predicted that Japan would be unable to crack the code.
“It saddens me to hear the last of the original code talkers has died,” Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly told Reuters. “We are proud of these young men.”
“I was very proud to say that the Japanese did everything in their power to break that code but they never did,” Nez said before receiving the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service by the American Veterans Center last November.
Navajo code talkers served in all six Marine divisions and six were killed during the war.
MORE: The Last Speakers of the Lost Whistling Language, Sylbo
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered some decidedly 19th century reasons for avoiding a debate with Hillary Clinton.
“It’s better not to argue with women,” he said in an interview with Radio Europe 1 transcribed and posted to the Russian President’s official website on Wednesday.
Putin was asked how he might respond to Clinton’s recent comments comparing Russia’s intervention in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Europe. Clinton has since walked back the statement.
“When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak,” Putin said, “but maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”
To which the interviewer responded: “Women must be respected, of course, and I’m sure you respect them.”
Putin had no direct response.
Back in the good old days, before he was playing Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones or Liz Lemon’s accidental love interest on 30 Rock, Peter Dinklage was just another high school kid in New Jersey rocking a serious mullet.
Behold! Here’s the photo from the 1987 Delbarton School yearbook that made its way to Reddit:
The partially cut off quote displayed below his picture is from playwright Sam Shepard: “Words are tools of imagery in motion.” We’d love to get Shepard’s thoughts on mullets sometime.
The movie begins with world news services — the BBC, Sky News — reporting the invasion and near conquest of Europe by extraterrestrial entities. Even CNN interrupts its 24/7 coverage of that Malaysian plane, giving Wolf Blitzer a chance to report an actual breaking story. And at the end (no spoiler alert necessary), we learn that “Russian and Chinese troops are moving across Western Europe without resistance.” That’s supposed to be the good news.
So we’re in the movies’ favorite nightmare fantasyland, Armageddon — or, through most of Edge of Tomorrow, a replay of the D-Day invasion, but with Allied forces deploying from London to fight not the Nazis but the Mimics. Described as “a spectacularly evolved, world-conquering organism” and looking like jellyfish or octopuses with limbs resembling Rastafarian locks, these alien beings take on the properties of the creatures they have encountered and assimilated. With tremendous speed and agility, they pop out of nowhere and zap, you’re dead — you and virtually all the other soldiers you hit the beach with. The Mimics can achieve this because they’ve been through this battle many times before and “an enemy that knows the future can’t lose.”
The only way to survive, and perhaps save the mission, is to catch a dose of the Mimics’ strength. You die on the battlefield, and then are instantly reborn back at the Heathrow training base, where you sharpen your warrior skills while memorizing every detail of the Mimics’ movements. Landing for the second or hundredth time on the beach, at the exact same future time, you relive your fatal nightmare, but with crucial tweaks: now you can anticipate the enemy’s feints and score some kills. Guiding you is a luscious, superefficient soldier, Rita Vrataski — the Angel of Verdun, or the Full Metal Bitch — though each time you meet her, she doesn’t know who you are.
Tom Cruise is the Groundhog Day grunt, and Emily Blunt the Angel Bitch, in Edge of Tomorrow, a furiously time-looping joy ride and the smartest action film of the early summer season. The movie’s only static element is its title, which oddly suggests a mashup of TV soap operas. Director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth could have borrowed a name from any number of James Bond films — You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die, Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day — to describe its hero’s curse and gift. Or they could have kept the title of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 source novel: All You Need Is Kill. (It sounds exactly as cool in the original Japanese: Oru Yu Nido Izu Kiru.)
In Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds remake, Cruise was an ordinary dad trying to outrun an alien takeover. In last year’s Oblivion, he was a career soldier battling his own clone. As Major William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow, he is, at first, the anti-Tom. A former ad agency spin doctor, Cage joined the service to create promos that would entice civilians into deadly combat. He’s the Don Draper of World War III.
“I do this to avoid doing that,” he tells the hardass General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). “Can’t stand the sight of blood. Not so much as a paper cut.” Unlike the gung-ho Maverick in Top Gun, which launched Cruise to stardom 28 years ago, Cage is spoiling not to fight.
Brigham stockades the reluctant warrior and attaches him to a squad of soldiers due to be dropped on the beach tomorrow. And now he’s a private with a coward’s rep, to be bullied by his master sergeant (Bill Paxton) and his gruff new mates. (Cruise looks great at 51 — he could be a fit 40. Still, wouldn’t his fellow soldiers wonder why a guy approaching middle age has the army’s lowest rank? Answer: No, because it’s a movie!) With precious little training in weapons operation and maneuvering his bulky robot uniform, Cage lands on the beach and sees his squad promptly wiped out. In one weirdly funny image, a cargo plane drops to the earth, smashing one soldier. This is the Saving Private Ryan beach invasion, played a second time as tragic farce.
Yet on Spielberg’s Omaha Beach, there was no fabulous babe, no female Audie Murphy for an out-of-place, out-of-time soldier to bond with. Rita used to be “in the loop” with the Mimics, but not now: “I had it and I lost it.” But when she realizes that Cage has somehow got on the enemy’s wavelength — a fact she must face anew each time she sees him, since he’s come back from the future — she trains him at Heathrow and fights bravely with him. As the periods of their endlessly repeated first meeting lengthen, they escape the beach for a deserted farmhouse; then the Thames River, infested with swimming Mimics; and finally Paris in search of the Omega Mimic that directs all the others.
For most of the film’s two hours, Liman keeps the plot plates spinning with the suave dexterity he showed in Swingers, Go, The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. (Liman had a down phase with Jumper and Fair Game, but all his pictures have addressed the lies that are taken as truth and the mystery of even a hero’s personality.) Photographed by Dion Beebe in the desaturated khaki colors of Saving Private Ryan and World War Z, the movie figures its viewers are bright enough to grab the premise and parlays that belief into audience exhilaration. Each succeeding visit to Heathrow or the beach is shorter, sometimes only by a second; the rhythm accelerates vertiginously, the tension tautens. Only toward the climax, when the live-die-repeat cycle is abandoned, does Edge of Tomorrow go logy. But it’s two-thirds of a sensational ride — one you can ride over and over without buying additional tickets.
Revealing the timidity of the X-Men: Days of Future Past premise — one man going back in time to connect with a younger version of an old friend — Edge of Tomorrow is also a metaphor for moviemaking: the film is all about rehearsal, about living and learning (or dying and learning) and gradually turning mistakes into triumphs. Cage has not only read the “script” of the Mimics’ war but has infused it into his central nervous system. In that sense, it’s a demonstration of the 10,000-hours-of-practice theory popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. Keep doing something forever and maybe you’ll get it right.
In a complicated scenario with just four prominent roles (Cruise, Blunt, Paxton and Gleeson), the two leading players must radiate star quality and sex appeal. Solemn and toned to the max, Blunt proves a strong partner for an actor who can still earn the sobriquet Tom Terrific. More often than most Hollywood hunks, Cruise steps outside his comfort zone to embrace weird characters — in Magnolia, Lions for Lambs, Tropic Thunder and Rock of Ages. But it’s also cool to see him bend the familiar action-fantasy format and, as he does here, stick the landing.
An aging star can’t push envelopes forever. According to the Internet Movie Database, Cruise is becoming his own Cage, planning to star in the sequels Mission: Impossible 5, Top Gun 2 and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Twist that last title and you have a suitable name for his current, very savory film: Always Go Back.