Tom Cruise dies. Tom Cruise dies over and over again while taking each new opportunity at life to fight an alien invasion. Tom Cruise dies over and over again while fighting an alien invasion so that Earth will survive.
Not quite Groundhog Day but bearing a strong resemblance to the excellent Source Code, this is one action blockbuster starring the much-maligned superstar which deserves its hype, and possibly even more than one viewing.
Directed by the original Bourne-maker, Doug Liman, the film has the self-assurance of its lineage - a beautifully photographed London, spectacular beach battle scenes and the focus squarely on the human peril with little regard for the monsters.
The acting's good too. Cruise is a delight to watch from the very opening scenes in which he, a captain in the US Army but very much an officer not a soldier, thinks he can smarm his way out of a general's order. No amount of PR training will help him, and minutes later we see "Private" Cage awaken in handcuffs to protest his identity and be sent, like a lamb to the slaughter, off to fight.
What makes it enjoyable is that Cage initially struggles with his body armour, makes constant mistakes and is terrified. It's a welcome change from Cruise's usual roles, and just one of many aspects of the film that enthrals us.
Extra points for quality acting go to Brit Emily Blunt, who only 10 years ago broke out in a little indie movie about a lesbian love affair and has since ascended swiftly to Hollywood royalty with films as diverse as The Young Victoria and The Adjustment Bureau (another tricky time-travelling tale, pairing her up with Liman's original Bourne, Matt Damon).
Blunt can never have imagined that a decade later she'd be the literal poster girl for a kick-ass, female fighting machine.
And even the supporting players are good, pleasingly picked from Australia, Britain and America and showcasing the best example you'll ever see of Bill Paxton actually having fun with a role, plus a welcome return from Aussie Noah Taylor.
It's easy to attribute the clever story to the wily mind of screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (who knows a thing or two about messing with time narratives following The Usual Suspects) but in fact McQuarrie co-adapted a Japanese novel - All You Need is Kill.
In any event, we can thank him for the tight plotting and clarity of message, as well as the genuinely funny jokes one can make when one already knows what a fellow combatant is going to say. As proven by Groundhog Day, there is endless comic potential in such gags, and McQuarrie's script ensures there is levity amid the gravity.
If Edge of Tomorrow heralds the way of action movies in the future, surely Cruise deserves to be cut some slack. And somebody better give Liman the next Bourne film.
Edge of Tomorrow (M)
- Sunday Star Times