Some movie stars never let up, and Tom Cruise is a prominent example. In his 50s now, Hollywood’s resident Prince Charming is still making action movies with the same laddish physique and boyish smile showcased in the first “Mission: Impossible.” Cruise is in nitty-gritty mode this time in sci-fi thriller “Edge of Tomorrow,” playing a soldier in Earth’s Self Defense Army training for battle with an army of aliens. He is killed, but then wakes up the same day, in the same hour, to repeat the process all over again. Each time he goes into combat, he gets a little better and stays alive a little longer until … Wham! He’s dead. Rinse and repeat.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is a superb novel-to-screen adaptation, based on the novel “All You Need is Kill” by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Scriptwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) teamed up with Jez and John-Henry Butterworth to bring Sakurazaka’s world alive, and much to their credit (and my endless relief), there are no attempts to introduce any samurai or Japanesey elements. This is a battle story, streamlined to a single premise: Cruise’s character Lt. Col. William Cage must hone his skills in combat, even in the process of constantly dying. He always gets another chance, but there’s no telling what could happen if he leaves the time loop that allows him to relive the same day over and over again.
The director is Doug Liman of the “Bourne Identity” series, so combining memory, non-linear time sequences and rapid-fire action in a single package must be second nature. Liman portrays Cage not as an elite warrior, but as a fast-talking smoothie with the heart of a coward. After Cage is pulled off his cushy desk job and dumped onto a muddy tarmac at Heathrow Airport, he tries to weasel out of actually having to fight the Mimics (the aliens), which have all but taken over Earth. But General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) is not impressed, and sends him off to Verdun, the setting of what could be the final war between the remaining humans and overpowering Mimics.
Emily Blunt stars as Rita — combat princess extraordinaire. Wearing a snug army uniform with dirt smudges on her porcelain cheeks, she comes pretty close to resembling an Akihabara combat doll. There’s a love interest thing going on here, too, but not in the way you’d expect. Rita is in the same time loop as Cage and she gives him pointers on how to buy more survival time. They come to build a relationship forged on work ethics and a desire to save the world. Rita was always this way but Cage has to shed to his ego and wimpiness, layer by layer, before he can finally stand on the same platform with her — transformed at last into a real soldier. As on-the-job programs go, it doesn’t get better than this, and unlike other sci-fi movies, you come away with the feeling that Earth is in good hands.