Director: **Doug LimanRating: PG-13Studio: Warner Bros. PicturesStars: **Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt
In a movie season bloated with overhyped letdowns, it's kind of a blast going into a flick without high expectations only to come out a few hours later jazzed and more than pleasantly surprised. Enter the fast, funny, cheerfully brutal Edge of Tomorrow, a CGI-loaded time loop sci-fi epic in which we get to enjoy Tom Cruise dying over and over again and Emily Blunt kicking slithery alien ass seven ways to Sunday. The great raw material, Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s better-titled novel and manga All You Need Is Kill, has been much altered for the big screen by screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth.
The biggest, most controversial switcheroos are that the movie’s hero is the white, 50-something Cruise instead of the young Japanese raw recruit created by Sakurazaka. If you can hang with the changes—and, from some fanboy complaints on the internet, some can’t or won’t—just know that the movie is directed with fast and furious tongue-in-cheek skill by the unpredictable Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and is set in the near future during a calamitous worldwide extraterrestrial invasion. Smug, cowardly military PR man Cruise (livelier, funnier, more engaging than he’s been in forever) gets shoved into a massive exo-suit and is parachuted into a combat suicide anti-alien mission only to get slaughtered almost immediately.
In Groundhog Day–meets–video game style, he relives those nightmarish events again and again, each time honing his survival skills and learning more about the aliens’ Achilles heels while getting the chance to not only change his fate but also help save what’s left of mankind. As fun as it is to watch a more vulnerable, looser than usual Cruise stop trying to act every second, it’s Emily Blunt as his mysterious, once-powerful trainer who gives the movie its punch. She’s so strong, powerful and terrific that she could probably handle the movie almost singlehandedly. But it’s also cool to see Bill Paxton getting in his licks as Cruise’s do-or-die commanding officer and there's even an oddly low-voltage Brendan Gleeson glowering and obstructing Cruise’s character every step of the way.
The hardware is impressive, the action scenes are immersive and those armies of slithery, many-tentacled alien beasties—“mimics,” they’re called—are appropriately disgusting, with major design nods to those in the Alien movies and Starship Troopers. Edge of Tomorrow obviously cost a fortune to make, but it has a light, shrugging, tossed-off air that makes it all the more impressive, let alone enjoyable.