The Tomorrow War: A Summary

A summary of the movie The Tomorrow War, a 2021 American military science fiction action film directed by Chris McKay

By Henry Liu ‘26

The Tomorrow War is a 2021 American military science fiction action film directed by Chris McKay. The picture is produced by David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, David S. Goyer, and many more. The ensemble cast features Chris Patt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, and Jasmine Mathews.


The world is stunned when a group of time travellers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: thirty years in the future, mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species.


In December 2022, biology teacher and former Green Beret, Dan Forester, fails to get a job at the Army Research Laboratory. During the broadcast of the World Cup, soldiers from the year 2051 arrive to warn that, in their time, humanity is on the brink of extinction due to a war with alien invaders referred to as the “Whitespikes.” In November 2048, the Whitespikes suddenly appear in northern Russia, their means of arrival on Earth undetected by satellite or radar, and proceed to kill the majority of the human species within three years. In response, the world’s present-day militaries are sent into the future via a wormhole device called the “Jumplink,” but fewer than 30% survive their seven-day deployment, prompting an international draft.

Dan receives his draft notice and tells his wife Emmy and daughter, Muri. Emmy suggests that they should run and talks Dan into visiting his estranged father James, a mechanical engineer, for help in removing the draft band attached to his arm. Dan’s father left him and his mother after he returned from the Vietnam War because he felt it was dangerous to remain with them. Angry, Dan says he does not want his father’s help and promptly leaves. Dan reports to basic training with other draftees where they are briefed by future soldiers. Dan deduces with fellow draftee Charlie, a scientist, that all draftees have died before the war starts to prevent a paradox.

The draftees are sent forward in time to a battlefield on Miami Beach but few survive arrival. With the city already lost, their commander orders the draftees to rescue nearby lab personnel before the area is sterilized. They discover the lab personnel are already dead but recover their research. Only Dan, Charlie, and battle hardened draftee Dorian (on his 3rd deployment) survive the Whitespikes and bombing.

Dan wakes up in a military encampment in the Dominican Republic. He reports to his commander, Colonel Forester, who he discovers is his grown daughter, Muri. Muri tells Dan that they have already developed a toxin that kills the male Whitespikes, but does not kill the females, who are rarer and more dangerous of the species. Muri wants Dan to help her capture a female Whitespike so that they can use her to formulate a toxin that will kill the females as well.

They trap and cage the female, only to have hundreds of males descend on their position. As the helicopter with the female lifts off, Dan and Muri escape to a beach and radio for rescue. Muri reveals to Dan that after he didn’t get the research center job he became dissatisfied with his life and abandoned his family. He later died in a car crash in 2030. Dan, Muri, and the female Whitespike are transported to a fortified oil rig close to Port Nelson, where the Jumplink is located.

Muri creates a toxin that can kill the female Whitespikes, but with the future unable to mass-produce it, she makes Dan promise to take it back with him. The base is attacked and overrun as Muri sacrifices herself to send Dan back to the present. The Jumplink is destroyed shortly after his return, which the world interprets as a sign that the future war is lost.

While Dan brainstorms with his wife, they deduce that the Whitespikes did not arrive on Earth in 2048, but much earlier. Dan consults with Charlie and Martin, a high school student with an interest in volcanoes, who helps them figure out that the Whitespikes have likely been on Earth since at least the 946 “Millennium Eruption“, and that global warming melting the ice caps had allowed them to emerge from beneath.

After the U.S. Defense Secretary declines to use military resources to prove the theory, Dan leads a mission to Russia with Charlie, Dorian, James, and a number of stranded future soldiers. The team finds a crashed alien ship buried beneath a glacier and they debate telling the world about the problem, but decide to end the threat themselves. Once inside, the team injects five of the dormant Whitespikes with the toxin; this successfully kills them but wakes the rest of the colony, and most of the team is killed. Dorian, terminally ill with cancer and wanting to die on his own terms, stays behind to blow up the ship with C-4, killing all but one of the Whitespikes, a female, who escapes. Dan and his father hunt and kill the female. They and Charlie are the team’s only survivors.

Content knowing that the war is averted and that humanity is saved, Dan brings his father home to meet his wife and daughter, determined not to make the same mistakes that Muri had warned him about from her future.

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