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Review: 'Edge of Tomorrow' is 'Groundhog Day' with angry aliens

The new Tom Cruise vehicle "Edge of Tomorrow" is actually a clever if not original actioner, where a soldier relives the same alien battle ad infinitum.

"Edge of Tomorrow" is one of those films that knows how fun it is to make the cocksure Tom Cruise look nervous. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures "Edge of Tomorrow" is one of those films that knows how fun it is to make the cocksure Tom Cruise look nervous.
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Edge of Tomorrow’
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
Rating: PG-13
4 (out of 5) Globes

“Edge of Tomorrow” is very clever but it’s not original. In fact, it’s a bald rip-off of a film that’s both: “Groundhog Day.” It’s just that it’s “Groundhog Day” with belligerent, tentacled aliens who are laying siege to the planet. And instead of simply waking up every morning in restart mode, its would-be hero — Tom Cruise’s Major Cage, a smirking army propagandist very unwittingly turned freaked-out soldier — is usually melted, run over, crushed, torn apart, feasted upon or (most frequently) shot in the head, execution-style.

The explanation for Cage’s rebooting is less elegant than it was in “Groundhog Day,” where the reason was that there was no reason. The one here, delayed for exactly long enough, is silly and convoluted, but once you accept it, getting into the groove is both easy and delightful. It’s true “Edge of Tomorrow” — based on a Japanese “light novel” with the considerably superior title “All You Need is Kill” — is essentially a video game, and an old school one, the kind where players only have to remember moves and beats. But it knows simply having Cruise’s warrior do the same thing until he gets it right would grow quickly tiresome. So it keeps reinventing itself, upping the score, all while our hero conceivably lives for weeks or years decades or far more than that.

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Tom Cruise has long played the upstart mentored into shape, but in "Edge of Tomorrow," the mentor is a warrior goddess (Emily Blunt) who's two decades his junior. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures Tom Cruise has long played the upstart mentored into shape, but in "Edge of Tomorrow," the mentor is a warrior goddess (Emily Blunt) who's two decades his junior.
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

This is as funny as another aliens-attack grinder, “Starship Troopers,” albeit in a completely different way. There’s not a satirical bone in its body. It’s a machine, a restless attempt to fully exploit an exploitable premise. It moves very fast — fast enough that it’s easy to miss or simply ignore the tortured, even clumsy plot machinations, especially as it tries to find a conclusion. In fact it’s so fast that its requisite almost-romance — between Cage and a warrior goddess (Emily Blunt), who he repeatedly has to re-convince to help him — is a touch too hesitant. It’s admirable that this doesn’t go whole hog obligatory love story, especially since Cruise is now AARP age. But their relationship could use a bit more meat — something like the tragic emotions that grounded the similarly crazed “Deja Vu.”

The thrill of watching “Edge of Tomorrow” isn’t just about what’s on-screen. It’s also about the tension of worrying how long this studio product can sustain its creativity before the execs come in and ruin the fun. It gets about 2/3 of the way there. Machines are rarely satisfying when they stop, and once this one slows down, it leads to pure murk, narratively and visually. Before then it’s clean and fleet, energetic yet controlled. It’s also knows, like “Eyes Wide Shut” before it, that it’s always a joy to make the cocksure Cruise nervous. The infinite repeats naturally chisel him into a confident hero — into Tom Cruise, as it were. Up until its last 20 or so, it’s the biggest blast an outsized summer film has been in both recent and not recent memory.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
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