Cruising for a bruising

“L. Ron Hubbard lights my way.”

“L. Ron Hubbard lights my way.”

Rated 5.0

Tom Cruise must’ve been grinning that Risky Business grin from ear to ear when he first read through the script for Edge of Tomorrow. He had to know he had a magnificent movie in his hands.

Watching Edge of Tomorrow is like watching James Cameron’s Aliens or J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek for the first time. It provides many surprises, is often scary, has a lot of laughs and always feels original. This is a science fiction movie that brings something new to the genre.

In the future, Earth is fighting a crazed, vicious alien force that is shredding our armies with little to no effort. Cruise plays Cage, an armed forces officer who serves more as a public relations man than anybody who belongs on a battlefield. After a publicity tour, he sits down with a hard-nosed general (a cold Brendan Gleeson) and finds out that he’s going into battle.

Cage is justifiably terrified, and his first taste of battle doesn’t go well. While he does score a couple of decent hits, he is killed in especially gruesome fashion. For reasons I won’t give away, he instantly wakes up after his death, transported back to a moment shortly after his meeting with the general, and before the battle that will take his life. Cage is in a seriously messed-up situation.

He starts repeating the same day, and dying every time. Cage does his best to change that outcome, but he always winds up meeting a grisly death and waking up in the same place. He eventually comes into contact with Rita (Emily Blunt), the military’s poster girl for the perfect soldier. By repeating days with Rita, Cage starts to build himself up as a soldier, discover secrets about the enemy, and increasing life longevity chances for himself and mankind.

Sure, it’s not cool to laugh when somebody dies. You will laugh at some of the ways Cage meets his end. Cruise embraces the comedic elements of the situation, but he and director Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) keep things far away from total silliness. At its core, Edge of Tomorrow is a well-oiled, sometimes horrific thrill machine that never stalls out and never missteps.

When talking about modern science fiction, it’s worth noting that Cruise is becoming a major force in the genre. War of the Worlds, Minority Report, Oblivion—which I had some problems with but was generally well received—and now this movie have established the guy as a Sci-Fi force unto himself. The same can be said for Blunt, who had a major role in Looper, another terrific science fiction film.

Cruise and Blunt are great onscreen together. Whether they are shooting each other in the head, or getting themselves irreparably bashed up during training sessions, they feed the film with unyielding professionalism and commitment.

Besides the elements of suspense and horror the film provides, another factor that gives the movie a nice Aliens vibe is the presence of Bill “Game Over!” Paxton as Cage’s ruthless commanding officer. It’s a great role for Paxton, and it allows him to take the crazy eyes out of that box in his sock drawer. Remember how edgy Paxton used to be? This movie gives him back some of that edge.

Edge of Tomorrow works on so many levels that I’m going to dare and call it a masterpiece of the science fiction genre. I’ll also step up and call it one of the year’s funniest movies, for sure. It’s not a comedy by definition, but when it gets laughs, it gets big ones.

As for that ending, it might feel a little strange at first, but think about it on the way home. It’s actually quite brilliant, and a satisfying puzzler.

If you are a Tom Cruise hater—bury that hate. See Edge of Tomorrow, and discover how a blockbuster can be smart, funny, thrilling and totally insane at the same time.