It’s the near future and a parasitic alien race, the Mimics, have invaded the Earth, subjugating mainland Europe. After being stupid enough to piss off commanding officer, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), cowardly army spin doctor Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself busted down to Private and assigned to a combat unit that’ll be in the front line of humanity’s fight back, the tip of the spearpoint, as Earth’s forces invade France in an attempt to retake the continent.

Killed within the opening moments of his first battle, Cage wakes up to find reality has inexplicably reset itself; it’s the morning of the attack and he’s been condemned to relive the same fateful day again and again, fighting, dying and being reborn, trapped in a closed loop of time. Determined to escape his fate, Cage seeks out hardbitten, seasoned warrior and military poster girl Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) who alone realises what’s happening to him and can train him to survive. Forced to live, die and repeat, Cage may just hold the key to humanity’s ultimate survival…

Based on the sci-fi novel All You Need Is Kill by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge Of Tomorrow is equal parts Starship Troopers and 50 First Dates, a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey Saving Private Ryan mixed with Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, a Groundhog D-Day if you like, with Tom Cruise’s combat-shy, Jerry Maguire-like bullshit artist forced to continually hit the beach, reliving the same day over and over again until he gets it right, transforming from an inexperienced coward into a battle-hardened veteran who’s humanity’s last, best hope for victory against the alien menace (which is ironic given Cruise’s religious beliefs).

It’s a remarkably simple, elegant premise that Cruise and director Doug Liman exploit to the full, mining it for its blackly comic potential (be honest; who among us doesn’t want to see the Cruiser repeatedly die horribly and inventively?) while serving up the eye-popping thrills and action we expect from a sci-fi blockbuster. Crucially, despite its video game structure and sensibility, Blunt’s ass-kicking mentor continually pushing the reset button by blithely offing Cruise every time he’s incapacitated, the film never feels like you’re watching a video game, Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth delivering a smart, subtle rollercoaster ride that consistently feels fresh and original even as you’re spotting it’s allusions to earlier genre classics. Yes, there’s nits here if you want to pick them; for starters, leaving aside all the time travel nonsense, why does everyone fail to recognise Cruise’s media manipulator when the first time we see him he’s being interviewed by the BBC, drumming up support for the war effort? Have none of the grunts he’s later stationed with been watching the news? But these are minor quibbles that don’t distract from the film’s more visceral pleasures.

As the reluctant hero at the film’s centre, Cruise is on his finest form for years, dialling down the smugness and upping the vulnerability, morphing from the initially slick confident huckster we’re used to from movies like Jerry Maguire and Cocktail first into ineffectual cannon fodder then a sympathetic everyman before inevitably evolving into humanity’s saviour. No mere love interest, Blunt is wonderful as the tough, all-too-human uberbabe/super soldier who trains and puts him through the wringer, the chemistry between them thick enough to burn, their blossoming relationship giving the film a soul at its tech-fetishist heart that’s tinged with a genuine melancholy as Cruise is forced to watch Blunt die over and over again. They’re ably supported by a terrific cast that includes Brendan Gleeson’s general and Bill Paxton’s drill sergeant (a fully grown version of his bullying Chet from Weird Science) as well as some familiar faces from the UK acting fraternity (Charlotte Riley, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way) as the doomed members of Cruise’s squad.

Witty, intelligent and propulsively exciting (this is yet another film in Cruise’s long career that keeps him in near-constant motion), Edge Of Tomorrow deserves a bigger audience after its so-so box office take, if for no other reason than it features a strong, ballsy, independent, action heroine named Rita.

EXTRAS: On the vanilla version, two featurettes

DVD Review: Edge Of Tomorrow
An exhilarating jolt of adrenaline
4.0Overall Score
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