Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Running time: 113mins
The lowdown: Tom Cruise returns to sci-fi – the genre that gave him hits with Minority Report, War of the Worlds and (arguably) the Mission: Impossibles – for Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. Cruise is a cowardly lion who literally becomes a locked-n-loaded tin man, reliving the same day over and over every time he is killed in action battling an invading alien horde. Classic sci-fi movies, computer games and attractive London locations meld for an undemanding Saturday night actioner from the director of The Bourne Identity.
The full verdict: It’s not just Major Cage, Tom Cruise’s venal army PR man, who experiences Edge of Tomorrow related deja-vu. The audience will also have the sensation they’ve seen this before.
Yes, the basic plot, based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill, lifts Groundhog Day’s endless day premise.
Yes, the invaders (aptly named Mimics) resemble The Matrix’s robotic killer sentinels and War of the World’s child-faced malevolent ETs.
Yes, Bill Paxton is on hand as a gung-ho sergeant to subvert his most famous role as the jittery Hudson in Aliens. Yes, Emily Blunt’s fearsome warrior (nicknamed The Angel of Verdun and Full Metal Bitch after a decisive battle, but actually christened, er, Rita) has a touch of Ripley and Lara Croft about her. As well as Battle Angel Alita manga fans.
Beyond this though is the sense all involved are reaching for past glories.
Director Doug Liman has never bested Go and The Bourne Identity. So, Edge of Tomorrow repeats the former’s tricksy time-shifting plot and the latter’s bewildered hero and clued-up heroine structure, with set-pieces in both government buildings and rural farmhouses.
Cruise’s Oblivion unfairly flopped and Edge of Tomorrow has the feel of ballistic do-over. English female co-star? Check. Female character who unlocks the central mystery? Check. SPOILER ALERT – leading man who lives again and again? Check.
Hell, even Emily Blunt’s best movie is the superior time-travel thriller Looper.
So far, so redundant. But while not possessing a single original cell in its creative DNA, Edge of Tomorrow is explosive good fun. Lean, muscular and with a narrative momentum many a bloated teen-fantasy adaptation could learn from, this is a movie that never forgets its primary mission is to entertain.
Sakurazaka is a games programmer and anyone who has repeatedly perished and been resurrected in Call of Duty’s digital combat zones, making inch slow progress with each fresh attempt, will wince with sympathy at Cage’s plight.
And with Groundhog Day so much part of the cultural lexicon, Liman and writers including The Usual Suspects’ Christopher McQuarrie make good sport playing games with audience expectations of just how much Cage does or doesn’t know at any given time.
Plus, as with the shadow-seeing rodent movie, this refrains from revealing just how long Cage has been reliving the same day over and over. Even if it has to explain why it’s happening.
Cruise and Blunt make for a winning warrior couple, throwing their all into stunningly well-realised, looped beach invasion of France that unsurprisingly mirrors Saving Private Ryan with Avatar hardware.
Give these two a Jack Reacher style thriller to really get their acting chops around quick.
Fast and furious then (there are two car chases), but Cruise should really look toward tomorrow rather than reliving his yesterdays.