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As you may have heard, Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, a religion founded by 1940s science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, legendarily on the advice of the dean of sci-fi writers, Robert Heinlein. As time goes by, Cruise’s movies are turning into solid Golden Age sci-fi. Last year’s Oblivion was good, and this year’s Edge of Tomorrow is at least as well-done. It’s not great, but it’s worth your $9.50. More than any other leading man, Cruise makes sure to give decent value for money.

The new Cruise movie is the most Heinleinish movie since Avatar. The obvious influence is Starship Troopers, but there is also a bit of Puppet Masters and Heinlein’s time travel stories like By His Bootstraps and “All You Zombies.”

Hollywood was long interested in Heinlein (Fritz Lang, director of 1927′s Metropolis, was a friend), but the industry tended to string him along and borrow from him off rather than put his name on movies he inspired. For example, Heinlein was the technical adviser on 1950′s Destination Moon and it included a lot of his 1947 juvenile novel Rocket Ship Galileo. Don Siegel’s 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers sure seems like it was inspired by Pu ppet Masters.

But you can see why Hollywood shied away from giving Heinlein a contract. Body Snatchers is brilliant at condensing the key creepy idea in Puppet Masters down to something that could be produced on a drive-in budget without all the flying cars, nudism, and recreational drugs that were part of Heinlein’s more fully imagined future. But now movie budgets and technology have caught up with Heinlein.

Nobody’s going to see Edge of Tomorrow, which noncoincidentally debuted on June 6th, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, because it’s so 1940s-ish, and kids these days are into comic book 1940s (e.g., Captain America: The Winter Soldier) rather than sci-fi 1940s. I don’t really grasp the difference, but it sure is important at the 2014 box office.

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47 Comments to ""Edge of Tomorrow""
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  1. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    Does this mean you’re no longer doing movie reviews over at Taki’s Mag?

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I do full-blown movie reviews when it seems like the movie is going to be a topic of conversation for awhile and I have something to say of interest about it. But the way I do movie reviews is a lot of work, so I pick and choose the movies.
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  2. Orthodox says:

    One thing I noticed is that when he’s going into battle for the first time, you can clearly tell he is shorter than the other soldiers.

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  3. Priss Factor [AKA "Cloudcastler"] says:

    ‘The new Cruise movie is the most Heinleinish movie since Avatar.’

    That’s giving Heinlein a bad name.

    EDGE sounds Heinlein-like in hardware but Dick-like in software.

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  4. Heinlein seemed like one of those people that could never be phased by anything or anyone. He had too much confidence to sweat the small stuff

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  5. The Z Blog says: • Website

    I think the under-30 cohort’s view of masculinity is the issue. Look at male leads. We have cartoon characters like Spiderman and Superman. Then you have steroidal characters like Vin Diesel and Hugh Jackman. Most male characters are Panda Men. The tough guys in movies are young girls in Lycra jump suits.

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  6. syonredux says:


    Well, the chronology looks right. Jack Finney’s THE BODY SNATCHERS was serialized in COLLIER’S in 1954, while Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS was serialized in GALAXY in 1951.

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  7. Cruise is a fine, professional actor. He’s one of those guys who always shows up and does the work. He’s made good choices throughout his career by going out of his way to team up with the best in his field – the best actors, the best directors, the best writers, etc.

    Who else in show biz can say he worked with Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Stone, Ron Howard, Tony Scott, Barry Levinson, Jack Nicholson, Ridley Scott, Robert Duvall, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Towne, and Aaron Sorkin before he was thirty? And that’s not to mention all of the actors Cruise worked with – and separated himself from – who were in Cruise’s own generation of actors: Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, John Turturro, John C. Reilly, etc.

    And those are just the people Cruise worked with before he was thirty. The next ten years would be just as productive in high-level collaborations: Steve Spielberg, Cameron Crowe, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Neil Jordan, Brian De Palma, John Woo, Edward Zwick, etc.

    Really, in the history of film, has any actor worked with more top-flight directors than Tom Cruise?

    But he’s not aging well. He’s looks too much like a handsome, old boy. Actors like Paul Newman, Sean Connery, and George Clooney show it’s possible to look better on the screen at age fifty than at age thirty. But I don’t think Cruise has that in him. And his recent choice of films – sci-fi action flicks – only highlights his problem. Cruise is fifty-two and looks a bit ridiculous running around saving the world from space invaders, even if he does look ten years younger than his age.

    Cruise is still a great actor, as anyone who saw him in Tropic Thunder can attest, but shouldn’t he be doing more roles of the sort that George Clooney now does?

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  8. alfa158 says:

    I was a SF geek since my childhood in the late 50′s. What stuck me about Oblivion is that it is a faithful execution of exactly the kind of good solid hard sci-fi story you would have routinely seen in Galaxy or Analog in the 60′s. I would have never dreamed then that one day it would be possible to produce a visually faithful presentation of that kind of story, and in particular that the movie craft would be just standard off the shelf technology and no one would even think twice about how convincing everything on screen looked.

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  9. WhatEvvs [AKA "Pseudonymph"] says:

    It’s getting stomped at the BO by a movie with Shailene Woodley, who was the best thing in The Descendants. The two biggest stars in Hollywood now are girls: JLaw and Shailene. This is unusual.

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  10. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, the 1956 movie, was based on the novel “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, 1954, by Jack Finney. Much of the film tracks the novel, however the ending is quite different.

    Neither the novel, nor the various films, of Body Snatchers have anything to do with Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.

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  11. @Anon
    Does this mean you're no longer doing movie reviews over at Taki's Mag?

    I do full-blown movie reviews when it seems like the movie is going to be a topic of conversation for awhile and I have something to say of interest about it. But the way I do movie reviews is a lot of work, so I pick and choose the movies.

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  12. Dave Pinsen says: • Website

    I wonder if he’ll ever do a movie of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

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  13. Christian says:

    Pincher Martin: I agree with your comment in full.

    Actully he did an awesome movie as a aging contract killer in Collateral back in 2004.
    I don’t know why, but then he returned to his “normal look”.

    He should do the Collateral-look, it suits his age much better.

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  14. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    “Oblivion was good!? LOL”

    In terms of story and characters, it was more sketchy than fully realized in dramatic and intellectual terms. It was bones without the flesh. But interesting concept.

    But here’s the thing. Because of the advance in film technology with CGI, even not-so-good sci-fi films look so much better than films of the past. This is why I think the past 15 yrs have been the golden age of sci-fi. GRAVITY isn’t much in terms of story or very deep in meaning, but what a blast as a piece of film-making. My jaw nearly hit the floor and my eyeballs nearly drifted out into space. And the graphics of TRON LEGACY was totally mind-blowing. (I wish I’d seen that in 3D in the theater). And the effects in SUNSHINE. Wow.

    True, none of these films are up there with 2001, THX 1138, Blade Runner, and Stalker. But long ago, a truly watchable sci-fi film came along once in a long while. As most sci-fi films don’t have much brains, they better at least offer some eye-candy. And most sci-fi films couldn’t deliver. Even after Star Wars and Close Encounters, most people couldn’t make sci-fi films looked any good. It was really with the rise of CGI that sci-fi was changed as a genre.

    Now, even second-rate sci-fi story ideas get pretty impressive special effects treatment.
    OBLIVION had some very cool imagery.

    But a real keeper is ENDER’S GAME. I expected something really dumb–sci-fi story by some nutball Mormon?–, but it’s one of the most thoughtful movies for young people in a long time. I like how it’s as much about strategy and politics of behavior as about being tough and blowing stuff up. I like how it challenges the notion of ‘truth’ and the ‘enemy’.

    While it was hurt at the box office by the homo protest, I think it ultimately failed because the characters looked more real-life-like than ideally good-looking(as in Hunger Games) and because it was too ambiguous for many young viewers.
    But what outstanding special effects.

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  15. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    “Oblivion was good!? LOL”

    I’d say just short of great. I doubt I’m the only one to see the contemporary relevance of a film about deluded people being put to work destroying the last vestiges of their race and civilization.

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  16. manton says:

    According to Wolfe, Stranger in a Strange Land was the single greatest influence on Ken Kesey. That is, written influence.

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  17. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    “Oblivion was good!? LOL”

    “I’d say just short of great. I doubt I’m the only one to see the contemporary relevance of a film about deluded people being put to work destroying the last vestiges of their race and civilization.”

    The Nowicker Man seems to think so.

    But movies like this could be read any way. It could be seen racially… or it could be seen as a political commentary about the military industrial complex.

    I think the makers are Jewish, so they probably weren’t making a ‘white nationalist’ film.

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  18. guest007 says:

    If the only good thing that can be said about a movie is that is has good special effects, then it is, by definition, a bad movie. The movies that were heralded as having great special effects ten years ago or more now look very dated and with poor special effects. However, movies with good plots or interesting ideas do survive the test of time.

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  19. Neechian says:

    I went to see the movie today and thought it was quite entertaining. And the lead actress in the movie (Emily Hunt?)…gorgeous, divine.

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  20. ….

    In view of today’s – in fact in view of the last three to four decades of – increasingly juvenile Hollywood films, I’ll stick with this from Mr. John Derbyshire:

    “”Do you ever feel, as I do, watching some old movie, or listening to the pop lyrics of the 1930s and 1940s, like a kid who’s wandered into a room where grown-ups are talking?” – ‘New English Review,’ January 2007

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  21. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    “If the only good thing that can be said about a movie is that is has good special effects, then it is, by definition, a bad movie.”

    True enough. But there are some movies I don’t care to see for anything else.

    I think STAR WARS is a great idea but Lucas blew it. But I did enjoy ATTACK OF THE CLONES for its awesome visuals, and they were truly awesome. I wouldn’t say ATTACK is a good movie and would even agree that it’s a bad movie. But it’s BADASS bad movie, and that’s something.
    Same with MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. I can’t endorse its story or its message, but some of the stuff was really outstanding, especially the upside down gun battle near the beginning. And the deux ex machina in the end was one badass looking giant raisinette.

    And it’s not easy to do good special effects. Terminator Three was awful. Transformers is hideous. Elysium was so terrible that I fast-forwarded through most of it. Never mind the story and message. It was an eyesore.

    Ideally, a movie should be good on all levels, but when special effects works in some sci-fi films, it works in a big way.
    If you approach them as stories, you have a right to be disappointed.
    But it’s like some rock concerts. You don’t go for the lyrics or meaning. You go for the performance and volume. It’s like Eddie Murphy said he never could understand what James Brown was singing but Brown was one great showman.
    I approach some sci-fi films the same way. I don’t expect much in the way of story and meaning, but when it delivers some awesome visual music, I’m grateful.

    MATRIX REVOLUTIONS was badass. But CLOUD ATLAS, that was unwatchable. MR. NOBODY sucked too. It sucked so bad, I quit after 30 min.

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  22. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    I think the makers are Jewish, so they probably weren’t making a ‘white nationalist’ film.

    Who better than a Jew to appreciate the prospect of losing one’s heritage to oblivion?

    No one ever intends to make a reactionary film, but sometimes they can’t help it. A work of art is lost to the artist once he turns it over to the cruel public. There is no patent on interpretation. I’m sure anxiety about this is a major, if unacknowledged, block for artists. You can hedge your bets all you want by, say, having Morgan Freeman save the day yet again with his wisdom, but there is always a reality against which an increasingly savvy public calibrates the themes and characterization. Only the daftest among us–granted a sizable proportion–doesn’t see the numinous negro bit for the self-conscious cliche it is. But that’s another story.

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  23. Whiskey says: • Website

    Winter Soldier is a grat movie. In comic book sci- fi from it has a stunning indictment of the Obama Admin drone and surveillance policies. My jaw dropped during many scenes where I couldn’t believe the writer got away with criticzing Obama like that.

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  24. hmmm says:

    “Edge of Tomorrow” is based on the Japanese sci-fi novel “All You Need Is Kill”.

    I would assume that the author of “All You Need Is Kill” was also influenced by Heinlein and otehr golden age sci-fi, but there are many other influences as well.

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  25. FredR says:

    Jeet Heer has a review of the second volume of the Heinlein biography in the New Republic:

    It’s mostly cheap shots, but still interesting to read.

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  26. I agree with Pincher. I much prefer Clooney’s movies of the past decade to Cruise’s. But Cruise, who is eighteen months younger than Clooney, was an Oscar nominated movie star when Clooney was grateful for small parts in The Facts of Life. Clint Eastwood was actually older than Clooney when he broke out of spaghetti westerns and made Dirty Harry. Paul Newman was 31 when he made Somebody Up There Likes Me, and 33 when he made his first real hit in The Long Hot Summer. No stars from the golden era broke out before they were 30: Grant, Stewart, Wayne.

    The 70s megastars who got their start in the 60s were younger. Ryan O’Neal was only briefly at the top, and he’s one of the few I can think of who was a lead star before 30–and he faded fast (although he’s aged beautifully and is getting more work). Redford was huge before 30, but he got bored with acting and made few movies after 1980, focusing more on directing. Warren Beatty has kept in the game, but again, he’s always more juiced by directing than acting.

    So Cruise had a major supporting part in Taps (terrible movie, but A-list release) at 19, made Risky Business at 21, Top Gun and The Color of Money at 24, Rain Man at 26, and got his first Oscar nomination at 27 with Born on the Fourth of July. And a lot of his big movies were still in his future.

    He’s 52 and is working on his 4th decade in films. Jimmy Stewart made his first appearance of any sort in films in 1935, and made Flight of the Phoenix and Shenandoah, his last movies of any serious note in 1965. Wayne died after 37 years on top at 72. Eastwood has been on top for over 40 years, and he’s 83.

    About the only guy I can think of who has been on top from such a young age is Will Smith, and Cruise still has Smith beat by a couple years–and Smith, let it be said, has definitely hit a slump.

    It’s hard to maintain that kind of energy. Cruise is still getting good reviews, still putting in a lot of work instead of phoning it in. He should be commended, and it strikes me as irrelevant that his film openings aren’t as big. No one complains that Sigourney Weaver doesn’t achieve that anymore–much less Clint.

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  27. conatus says:

    “Oblivion was good?LOL”

    Tom Cruise replies and rewrites Oblivion’s last and best line.
    “Fuck you, LAZ”

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  28. T says:

    Oblivion was stunning to look at and listen to, while Edge of Tomorrow was really rather workmanlike technically, e.g., it has the most boring-looking aliens of any major movie of the last couple of decades. Both have really hackneyed stories, but Edge of Tomorrow’s is much more tightly executed. Cruise looked just too old for an action hero in Edge of Tomorrow, less so in Oblivion, I think.

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  29. Priss Factor [AKA "Cloudcastler"] says:

    “Taps (terrible movie, but A-list release)”

    Very interesting movie

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  30. Priss Factor [AKA "Cloudcastler"] says:

    “Smith, let it be said, has definitely hit a slump.”

    Not really. He just decided to focus on personal matters.

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  31. Mr. Anon says:

    “Skyislander says:
    June 8, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I think STAR WARS is a great idea but Lucas blew it. But I did enjoy ATTACK OF THE CLONES for its awesome visuals, and they were truly awesome.”

    Tells us everything we need to know about your utility as a movie reviewer. You may as well just write: “I am a clueless nitwit with no taste or discernment. Ignore everything I say.”

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  32. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    “I much prefer Clooney’s movies of the past decade to Cruise’s.”

    But Cruise was in EYES WIDE SHUT. Now, that is an all-time great film. Was Clooney in something as great?

    Also, Cruise worked with more interesting directors: Kubrick, Spielberg, DePalma(though I don’t care for MISSION IMP), Stone, Mann.

    Clooner was in some good movies, but I can’t think of any that made a difference.

    Cruise was in RISKY BUSINESS that redefined a genre. (Good movie but had bad impact as it further popularized what Ebert called the ‘Horny Teenager Movie’ even though it was satirizing the genre. In the 80s, there were basically three kinds of teen movies. The horny teenager stuff like PORKY’S which I still haven’t seen. Or slasher movies where horny teens got butchered. Refused to see any Friday the 13th flick. Or John Hughes movies where teachers and parents all sucked or were total clods. Though such movies still exist, kids recently had Twilight and stuff like Way Way Back and Kings of Summer. Now, those are really good stuff. Parents and teachers aren’t vilified or scapegoated in Twilight, and the thing between Bella and her dad is wonderfully done. Way Way Back has a jerk of step-father but he’s fully humanized instead of being made into a cartoon villain. Kings of Summer shows that kids don’t only think about boing. Spectacular Now has a stomach-churing interracist BS, but the scene where the son meets his estranged father is one of the best of its kind. Great performance about a man who refuses to grow up. Damn, I feel envious of kids growing up today at least when it comes to movies about teens. In the 80s, we had the Sure Thing, which was pretty good, but it was the exception than the rule as most teen stuff was dreadful back then. Maybe Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED was the first in turning the tide of dreadful 80s youth movie formula.)

    One difference between Cruise and Clooner. Cruise still looks and acts 17.
    Clooney was born ‘mature’. His voice and silvery hair made him look 50 even when he was in his 30s.

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  33. Terrahawk says:

    No, Smith has hit a slump. The films he has done have been bleh.

    Edge of Tomorrow is actually a decent flick. Haven’t seen Oblivion, but I wouldn’t consider EoT to be hackneyed. It has some decent twists. It’s a genre film and genre films by definition are going to have some well worn paths. I thought the film did a good job of having some original concepts.

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  34. Sideways says:

    Edge of Tomorrow is up to $140 million at the box office, but I guess no one is going to see it.

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  35. No, he’s hit a slump. Unless “focus on personal matters” means “include your kid in very weak movies”.

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  36. Priss Factor [AKA "Cloudcastler"] says:

    “No, he’s hit a slump.”

    He has but because he took on more personal projects.

    If he’d just suck with stuff like in Men in Black, he would remained a hit.

    To the extent that he chose more personal projects, he should be lauded… even if the projects weren’t artistically successful.

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  37. Mr. Anon says:

    I always thought that Cruise is a pretty good actor. He was quite good in “Born on the Fourth of July” and likewise pretty good in “The Firm” and “Minority Report”. He may not be the best actor, but he has pretty good taste in the roles he takes on.

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  38. Luke says:

    I like Cruise’s recent output-mi 4, jack reacher, oblivion, edge of tomorrow. Very enjoyable movies, watching the extras on blu ray Cruise is fully invested in each character everyone says he has the best work ethic, etc. As a consumer what more can you ask for?

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  39. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    “Tells us everything we need to know about your utility as a movie reviewer. You may as well just write: ‘I am a clueless nitwit with no taste or discernment. Ignore everything I say.’”

    I don’t believe in throwing out the starbaby along with the bathwater. It’s like an opera or symphony. It might have long dull stretches but it may still have great moments.
    Or the singer might suck in a band but it might have a great guitarist and drummer.

    Take films like Potemkin and Triumph of the Will; there isn’t much in the way of truth or meaning. But what awesome film-making.

    I think much of APOCALYPSE NOW after the helicopter attack scene is pointless and dreary. And the ending is a disaster. But the first 40 min of that film is one of the greatest put on screen.
    Kurosawa’s RAN really sags in the middle whenever the mad Hidetora shows up, but it has some of Kurosawa’s greatest images.

    In cinema, you gotta take what you can.

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  40. George says:

    “Are you not entertained?” Maximus Decimus Meridius
    You are paying to go to the movies, not sit in on a live lecture by Aristotle.

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  41. SB says:

    I would have liked Oblivion more if I hadn’t seen Moon first.

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  42. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    So far as the Heinlein influence goes, one could note that the uniform worn by Bill Paxton’s Kentuckian Sergeant Farrell (and also by Cruise in a few scenes) appears, with its (seemingly) flat grey-green colour (it’s actually very subtle Multicam), white T-shirt and distinctive, flat-topped cap, to be intended to directly reference the US Army fatigues of the late 1950s.

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