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Tom Cruise proves his sci-fi chops yet again in 'Edge of Tomorrow'

Warner Bros

By Karsten Smolinski, Daily Arts Writer
Published June 11, 2014

What if you had to relive the exact same day, over and over again? That may not seem too terrible depending on the day. What if it was the day you died?

In the sci-fi action film “Edge of Tomorrow”, a military promoter with no combat experience named Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Tom Cruise, “Mission: Impossible”) finds himself thrust into a mechanized combat suit and a suicidal assault against strange alien forces known as the Mimics. Caught in a time loop following his first quick death on the beaches of France, Cage must play out this fateful “Groundhog Day” like scenario in the midst of a gruesome slaughter. He perishes again and again, only to reawaken on the day before the attack.

As Cage struggles to survive each new day, he encounters Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, “Looper”), a war hero who experienced a similar time loop during the sole human victory at Verdun. Together, they plan to destroy the alien leader in a desperate bid to end both the invasion and Cage’s time loop for good. With each brutal death, Cage slowly transforms from hopeless alien bait to flawless killing machine.

Endlessly repeating the same day isn’t an entirely novel idea. 2011’s “Source Code” used a similar device, and the repetition could get tiresome quickly. Watching humans in mechanized combat suits blast, bombard and slice up tentacle-waving aliens does provide an engaging viewing experience. However, the movie’s massive, explosion packed battles never stand above the large pool of action flicks. Luckily, the action sequences never dominate the film.

Instead, “Edge of Tomorrow” shines when showing how Cage learns to manipulate the events around him by predicting people’s words and actions. It’s almost like a videogame, with each new death teaching the player what not to do before restarting at the checkpoint. No scenario plays the same way twice, while the plot moves at a fast pace to keep the audience engrossed. Watching Cage’s failed attempts proves surprisingly humorous even as repeatedly seeing the bloodied bodies of his comrades provides Cage with the incentive to fight on.

Cruise previously excelled in sci-fi action in films such as “Minority Report” or last year’s “Oblivion”, and “Edge of Tomorrow” proves no exception. Blunt never misses a step as the battle-hardened badass. Bill Paxton (“Aliens”) gives a dead-on target performance as the no-nonsense, death-or-glory, duty-bound Master Sergeant Farell, adding to both the laughs and the peculiar sense of inescapable fate.

With damaged transport planes falling from the sky like a burning metal rain and aliens exploding into glowing goo, the action in “Edge of Tomorrow” entertains viewers but never astounds. Fortunately, while Cage must use violence to overcome this alien menace, it’s the film’s wit that proves most enjoyable. Though learning to overcome each new death stretches Cage’s endurance to its limits, the film’s quick editing sweeps audiences along on an effortless thrill ride. It may resemble “Groundhog Day” with a sci-fi action twist, but this particular battle for the fate of all mankind remains one not quite like any other.