‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Ending & Time Travel Explained

Published 1 month ago by , Updated July 18th, 2014 at 9:56 am,

Edge of Tomorrow Ending Spoilers Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

Based on the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow tells the story of Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a man who is forced onto the front lines for a major military operation against invading aliens known as “Mimics.” Untrained and unprepared for combat, Cage is killed within minutes – only to wake up 24 hours earlier with no choice but to relive (and die) the same day over and over.

Like many time travel (or time loop) stories, Edge of Tomorrow relies on heady exposition and mind-bending sci-fi ideas which may confuse certain moviegoers. For that reason, we’re here to help breakdown the Major Cage’s ability to “reset” time, as well as explain the film’s ending. Our discussion is going to be full of SPOILERS from here on out – for both Edge of Tomorrow and the All You Need is Kill source material. READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up. You have been warned.

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MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW

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The Source of Time Looping

June Preview Edge of Tomorrow Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

In the opening moments of the film, we learn that Major Cage is a government-sponsored talking head who refuses to document the UDF campaign “Project Downfall” from the front lines. Branded a deserter, Cage is forced into military service (as part of J-squad) on the eve of a massive offensive, waking up at Heathrow airport in handcuffs (the starting point for the time loops he experiences throughout the film).

In spite of rigorous planning and secrecy, the Mimics see the attack coming and the offensive turns into a massacre – wiping out humanity’s last line of defense. On the ground, Cage watches as J-Squad and UDF war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) are mercilessly slaughtered by orange-tinted Mimic drones. During the fracas, Cage comes face to face with a blue colored “Alpha” Mimic, exterminating the creature as its acidic blood rains down on his face, killing him. That Alpha blood gives Cage the ability to “loop” (aka reset time by a day).

Edge of Tomorrow Aliens Rita Vrataski Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

Through countless trial and error attempts, Cage manages to befriend Vrataski and her physicist confidant Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor) who explain their theories on Mimic physiology. Carter asserts that the Mimics, named for their uncanny ability to adapt to human military strategies, are a highly-evolved hive mind capable of controlling time. At the center of the collective is the “Omega” Mimic, an extremely large and powerful creature that serves as the brain of the Mimic force but is hidden far away from the battlefield for its own protection.

Where the normal orange-colored Mimics are basic workers/pawns, sent into battle for the sole purpose of killing enemies, the Omega also employes the use of the blue-tinted Alphas, who serve as the eyes and ears of the Omega on the front lines. Unlike basic Mimics, Alphas are precious to the collective, and thanks to their direct link to the Omega, contain the head creature’s time-controlling essence in their blood. Should an Alpha die, the Omega resets time but retains the knowledge of everything that went wrong on the battlefield – allowing the creature to make tactical adjustments accordingly, and gain an upper hand in the new time cycle.

The highly-evolved power to wind back the clock is responsible for the extraterrestrial’s unrelenting adaptation to human military efforts, as well as the reason Mimics were able to see Cage’s invasion force coming: because the Omega had already watched it all happen in a previous timeline, and had mapped out a different strategy following one or many resets. In effect, the Omega is able to turn any fight that it experiences into an elaborate trap – until Cage inadvertently hijacks the time-loop ability.

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The Rules of Time Looping

edge of tomorrow tom cruise Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

At the time of his first death, Cage is drenched in the blood of a dying Mimic, essentially transferring the Omega’s time control ability to Cage. After saving her on the French battlefield, Vrataski reveals that she had experienced the same looping phenomenon during an assault at Verdun, but subsequently lost the ability after she was severely injured and bleeding out. During her time looping, she worked with Dr. Carter to understand how the time reset ability actually worked – attempting to find out if it could be transferred to others via physical contact, blood, or other bodily fluids.

The pair came to the conclusion that only one organism (Mimic or Man) could be in charge of the reset at any given time – meaning that when Rita acquired the ability, the Omega no longer had control, giving Vrataski (and later Cage) a temporary edge. The Alpha blood also caused Vrataski (and eventually Cage) to have visions of the Omega’s hidden location, and Dr. Carter surmised that if they could find the creature in time, before a reset, they could wipe out the entire Mimic invasion force – since the creatures were all extensions of the Omega. As it turns out, Vrataski and Cage’s “visions” were actually traps, planted by the Omega after it had figured out who was in control of the loop – by drawing Rita (and later Cage) to an isolated location, the Omega hoped to reclaim its looper blood, so that the Mimics could regain control of the time reset.

Edge of Tomorrow Alpha Mimic Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

Cage manages to survive the Omega’s trap (by drowning himself) and the encounter encourages him to revisit an abandoned piece of technology that Dr. Carter had built – based on the appearance of Vrataski’s original visions – to track the Omega by hijacking an Alpha’s connection to the Omega. After a number of resets, Cage and Vrataski successfully acquire the gadget, and Cage uses the device on himself (since his body contains Alpha blood), quickly locating the Omega. Yet, during their attempted escape with the device, UDF infantry destroy their getaway car, leaving Cage injured and bleeding out. He awakens hours later with an IV pumping fresh blood into his arm, having lost the ability to reset time – just like Vrataski had months earlier.

As a result, control of the loop reverts to the Omega - but, unless an Alpha is killed, Cage and Vrataski still have time to travel to the creature’s location and destroy it. The pair enlist the help of J-Squad, who Cage manages to convince of the time loop (thanks to the countless hours he’s spent with each of them in prior loops), and the soldiers set out for Paris – where the Omega is concealed underneath the Louvre. No longer able to reset time, Cage and his team only have one shot to kill the Omega, and are tasked with the added challenge of not killing an Alpha. As mentioned, should the team kill inadvertently kill an Alpha, the Omega would reset time, and Cage would not retain any of the memories of his previous exploits.

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The Ending Explained

edge tomorrow tom cruise emily blunt1 Edge of Tomorrow Ending & Time Travel Explained

J-Squad is killed-off one at a time while escorting Cage and Vrataski to the Lourve - where entry to the Omega’s lair is guarded by an Alpha. Vrataski sacrifices herself in order to distract (without killing) the Alpha, while Cage tries to destroy the Omega, which is hiding in a flooded portion of the parking garage. As Cage swims downward, he is impaled (and mortally wounded) by the Alpha, who spears him through the chest with a tentacle; in spite of his injury, Cage manages to release a cluster of grenades. The explosion kills the Omega, and since it is the brain of the Mimic collective, its death causes the remainder of its kind on Earth to wither and die, putting an abrupt end to the alien invasion.

Even though Cage survives the detonation, he is doomed to die – that is, until the Omega’s blood, rising through the water, seeps into his wound. As Cage dies he regains control of the Mimic’s ability to reset time – this time waking up hours before he was ever arrested (his usual start point in the loop). Furthermore, certain actions from the previous loop are retained – while others are not. The Mimics are dead following an unknown event (unknown to everyone but Cage) below the Louvre. Yet, J-Squad and Vrataski have all been resurrected, with no knowledge of their role in eliminating the Mimics during the prior time cycle.

NEXT PAGE: Time Loop Paradox Explanation >

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  1. When Tom Cruise loses his power, he says “I can feel it”
    Safe to say she felt the same when she lost hers. That answers that.

    The day gets reset 24 hours, so the last reset was 24hours prior to when he died…which was hours BEFORE he ever arrived on based.

    Simple.
    Get it?
    Got it.
    Good.

    • No… it makes no sense that it’s a 24 hour reset, as he always starts at the same point, but dies at different times each time.

      • It’s a 24 hour reset from the time that the Alpha is killed- not from each time Cage is subsequently killed.

        In other words, when Cage kills the Alpha, it creates a “checkpoint” in time. It’s supposed to be so that the Alpha can travel back 24 hours, learn from its mistake, and avoid dying a similar death. However, Cage hijacks the ability and is sent back instead.

        So now every time Cage dies, he is sent back to this fixed point in time: 24 hours before the Alpha was killed. (Which just happens to be when he awoke at the barracks.) Once he loses the Alpha’s blood, he also loses his connection to that fixed point in time. It’s almost like the Alpha’s blood is what had the information and directions necessary for his consciousness to know where to return to.

        Even if Cage had killed another Alpha (after receiving the transfusion), it would not have sent him back to that same point of waking up at the barracks. That particular reset point was specifically created for the original Alpha he killed on the beach. We see this when he kills the Omega and it sends him back to a different point in time. (In this case, it’s a few hours before he woke up at the barracks, because he kills the Omega a few hours before he had killed the Alpha.)

        I think the main problem audiences had with this concept is that they assumed it worked just like Groundhog Day. That movie was about a man reliving a single day over and over again, whereas Edge of Tomorrow is about a man being sent back to a fixed point in time. And that fixed point in time is unique to each alien he kills.

        • Yep, this makes sense and now the ending and the movie makes perfect sense to me, which I just watched!

  2. I thought i would share my take on the ending. First, when Cage hijacks the power of the alpha, and wakes up at the airport, i believe the original alpha goes boom. Because Cage is the new alpha and he just hijacked the life blood of the original. That, along with Omega seeing into Cage’s thoughts, would explain how Mimics learned about Cage. Because an alpha going boom in the midst of them is noticeable.

    Now, at the end, when Cage hijacks Omega’s life blood, he wakes up at the helicopter and the Omega goes boom because he is new omega now and the other alpha’s being compatible with only the original omega cant survive and dies as well. That is why he is greeted to the news of the end of the invasion the moment he steps off the helicopter and he alone knows he is the reason. And he remembers them all because he just reset like last time, only this time with Omega’s blood. And just like previous reset, Rita and J squad don’t remember anything.

    Now why did Cage reset at Helicopter scene and not at the airport. Being the Omega i would assume he has more control on time reset than alpha (well he should be because Omega is the mastermind and need control of the whole reset thing to plan a siege and can involuntarily choose the most strategically convenient moment to reset). In Cage’s case, the best reset moment would be helicopter because he can rub it on the general’s face and retains his Major rank. So without controlling it, it automatically chose this moment for him.

    Now the end credits could be like this. He walks victoriously into the camp and meets Rita and the J squad, and may or may not offer to make them the new alpha’s. If he is murdered suddenly he could reset and avenge himself and also can die of his own accord by letting his blood bleed out.

  3. Not buying it. If Cage reset time to before his meeting with the general, then he would never have gone into battle, and never would have acquired his abilities, and therefore the events that led to the Omega’s death would never have happened. I understand that you’re postulating that the Omega’s death was somehow out of the loop, but that’s not possible, because its death has to be encompassed by any loop in which it dies, otherwise it wouldn’t be dead within that loop. And, as before, if it’s not dead within that loop, then Cage would have still been sent into combat, and the whole thing would have started again.
    The filmmakers would have been better off showing Cage and Vrtaski vowing to loop into their assault until they got it right, with the audience left to presume that’s what would eventually happen.

  4. I must say Ben, I found your explaination extremly well thought out and gave me the closure I needed for an otherwise excellent and fun film. One of my faves this summer!

    Thank you :)

  5. What I thought is that the blood of the Omega allowed him to once again have the powers of the time reset just like the Alpha had….Okay. But the actual power came from the Omega and he had been reliving the same day, but his death occurred only half way through that day before the morning where they storm the beach.
    New blood new loop and I have a couple of theories. Maybe that was the closest time to the last time the Omega reset the day. Perhaps this had to happen one way or the other because the loop had to be closed somehow. No matter when Cruise dies it would always reset to the same waking moment. So, this may have been the closest to the Omega’s reset or time loop beginning.

    But, I could be completely off the mark. Either way, an enjoyable movie.

    • “New blood, new loop.”

      That’s how I interpreted it as well.

      When Cage kills the Alpha, the system automatically resets 24 hours. When he kills the Omega, it again resets 24 hours.

      He kills the Alpha during the beach invasion. He kills the Omega a few hours before the beach invasion.

      This difference in time results in a difference in Cage’s waking location (barracks vs. helicopter).

  6. From a cursory and disappointing review of the commentary herein I have yet to see someone recognize the scene wherein the meta physicist presents the theory that there are multiple omegas carried by asteroids across the vast expanse of the universe. With that said, by destroying the omega on earth the *other* omegas that are interconnected with the *mother* organism (albeit on a more galactic scale but, nonetheless, still operate in the same fashion as explained by the meta physicist who initially explained the distortion of the space time continuum). It’s *cousin* omegas just reset the time till the day before the earth omega dies. Cage is born again with the power and now will have a new mission. Wake up people, how many more days till you “get it?” That’s obviously rhetorical. Looking forward to the sequel.

  7. i didnt give the ending much thought. But reading this article’s explanation made me more confused. :(

  8. Hello Everybody,

    my opinion is that when Omega died, the alternate timings ended too, as Omega made those, as this was the special ability of that creature.

    So the first time, when the time has been changed is when Rita killed the first Alpha. And after that Cage traveled by the helicopter to General Brigham (to get the winning battle on screen live)…

    Let me explain it a little better:
    Omega lived in all timings, and if it died in one, it died in every timeline. The first time travel was with the first die of the Alpha. As we don’t know how Rita killed the Alpha, and what happened during that battle, we can guess, that she killed the Alpha, get it’s blood into a wound of her, and she died after that first (in another battle, or by a mimic with lower rank)… That can explain why she is not dead.

    This can explain the end of the film the best for my understanding.
    Let me know what you think!

  9. So the only thing I don’t understand fully is, how was Cage able to reset the day, but retain the fact that he killed the Omega? Is it because he killed the Omega not just an Alpha, so he had a further depth of control on the time travel?

  10. Well, he’d only keep it until his blood was swapped out.

    That doesnt only happen through transfusions though. After a certain amount of time, the blood in his veins would be replaced by new cells, essentially purging him of the power. So even if he did keep it, he wouldn’t keep it for the rest of his life.

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