Warner Bros.

Summer is here again, so that means Tom Cruise is back in another sci-fi epic. Wait, no, come back! This one doesn't suck like Oblivion did. Trust us.

Lt. Colonel Bill Cage is the united Earth military's top talking head in a near future when strange aliens called Mimics have laid waste to the better part of Europe, with their sights set on a siege of all that remains. Unexpectedly, Cage finds himself on the front lines of humanity's last-ditch strike on Mimic home territory, riding in a mechanically powered Jacket that increases his strength and firepower to the level necessary to combat the alien menace. Will Cage, the consummate non-soldier, have what it takes to survive the beachhead? (Spoiler: he won't. But the movie's just getting started.)

Courteous is out this week.

The Savage Take

Edge of Tomorrow might not break any new ground, but it’s a far better film than the one its trailers are trying to sell you, a smart and straightforward sci-fi summer blockbuster of the kind I’ve missed in recent years, with a surprising vein of dark comedy and bravura performances by leads Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.

People will inevitably compare this film to 1993’s Groundhog Day, and it’s wholly appropriate; both films establish a geography of time travel for their characters to inhabit and quickly make their audience feel at home with the conceit. This is the core strength of the film: Doug Liman’s careful and intelligent direction, aided by tight editing to make the endless flashbacks palatable. As Cage becomes increasingly frustrated, so do we, but thanks to Liman’s intuitive monkeying around with the set pieces at hand, it never gets tiresome.

Tom Cruise’s Bill Cage is initially a gleefully sleazy cross between Jerry McGuire and Les Grossman, his repeated deaths--often brutal, but often with a dark humor, too--and merciless training at the hands of war Hero Rita Vrataski (Blunt), mold him into the intense action hero we know and love, but more refined and refreshingly humbled. I can’t recall any action film in which Cruise evolves on screen like this, and it’s wonderful to behold.

There’s real chemistry between Cruise and Blunt, who gets to be nothing short of a total badass. Wielding a sword made from a sharpened helicopter blade, she’s a wonderful scene-stealer, which is quite an accomplishment when you’re acting alongside Tom Cruise at the top of his game. Special mention should also go to an almost unrecognizable Bill Paxton as Cage’s eloquently abusive Sergeant.

Tom Cruise is wonderful to behold.

The relationship between Cage and Vrataski, all chemistry aside, is one of the film’s bothersome stumbling points. Forced to relive his days with her over and over again, we understand Cage’s growing attraction to his new mentor. But why would she reciprocate? I get that she’d empathize with his situation, but sometimes it feels as if she’s remembering things she shouldn’t, a hiccup in the film’s otherwise mostly sound logic.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the climax. It’s not bad, and it absolutely doesn’t hurt the rest of the film, but it just feels too safe. After all all the other risks I’d witnessed, I’d hoped the movie would take a more daring approach than a Hollywood conclusion. I’m sure many or most people will be fine with it, but a more challenging ending could have raised this film into another tier of excellence. As it is, it feels like a missed opportunity.

One more thing: I hope the designers for Godzilla 2 will see this film and take notes, because the creatures in Edge of Tomorrow are inventive and gorgeously rendered, menacing enough when they’re standing still, but feeling truly dangerous when they flutter and flick across the battlefield faster than the human eye can track. This skillful underuse makes every trek into their territory an exercise in suspense.

Where Do We Go From Here?

S: Revisit Groundhog Day. Like this one, it's a film that puts time travel in skillful hands to supremely satisfying results.