Edge of Tomorrow

The following contains spoilers for Edge of Tomorrow/Live. Die. Repeat as well as American Made.

Killing off the hero of a movie can be tricky. When that hero is Tom Cruise, it can get even trickier. However, Doug Liman seems to have a unique understanding of the proper way to kill Tom Cruise on screen. He did it so many times in Edge of Tomorrow that we lost count, but that's not the only time Doug Liman has killed Tom Cruise. The director has become something of an expert at killing off his hero, but Liman feels the key is to do so in a way that doesn't feel like it's punishing the audience. According to Liman...

There's killing your hero and then there's punishing your audience. And that's one of the things I learned making this film is that there's a difference between those two and that we killed our hero, but we didn't punish the audience.

In the vast majority of movies, the audience gets a happy ending where the hero succeeds at whatever it is they're trying to accomplish and everybody lives happily ever after, to one degree or another. Sometimes, we do see our heroes die, and this can be handled in many different ways. Sometimes it does seem like a character death can exist only to punish the audience, as killing off somebody the audience has become invested in is a sure way to get an emotional reaction, but Doug Liman's comments to Uproxx seem to discount this idea as the right way to do it.

Certainly, in Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise's death never punishes the audience, though the reason is that the death never sticks. Every time his character dies, he comes back to life. The final death of Cruise's character in that film looks like it might be permanent, and though it ends up not being so, it's unlikely the audience would have felt punished by it. The entire movie set them up with countless images of the character's death.

Doug Liman and Tom Cruise worked together again in American Made, which is in theaters now. In that film as well, Tom Cruise's character dies. In the case of that movie, the death also doesn't feel like a punishment of the audience, because the death feels very much inevitable. Barry Seal is a character who gets in way over his head with people who are clearly dangerous, and he doesn't seem to give it a second thought. The fact that the character survives as long as he does feels more like luck than anything else. Tom Cruise, who is the human embodiment of the concept of charisma, makes the character as likable and relatable as possible, so the moment still has an impact, but nobody is going to leave the theater feeling cheated that their hero died.

With Doug Liman planning to direct Tom Cruise a couple more times over the next few years, be prepared to see Cruise killed off again, especially since of those movies is the sequel to Edge of Tomorrow.

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