As Tom Cruise repeats the same day over and over, "Edge of Tomorrow" breaks the cycle of post-"Dark Knight" blockbusters.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Remember when movies were fun? The people behind "Edge of Tomorrow" do, and this time-looping alien invasion romp remembers that blockbusters can be fun -- and more importantly, funny.
Tom Cruise plays a cowardly soldier forced to relive a doomed battle over and over again, unless badass Emily Blunt can show him where the safety catch is on his ordnance-packed exoskeleton mecha-suit. It's "Groundhog Day" meets "Aliens", and it's great.
Why so serious?
In the post-"Dark Knight" world, the blockbuster movie has suffered something of an identity crisis, with glorious multiplex silliness replaced by shadowy, stone-faced attempts at profundity. For me, that trend reached its nadir with this summer's first big blockbuster, "Godzilla", which so self-consciously and po-facedly denied its own essential silliness it made "The Dark Knight" look like an episode of Adam West's uber-camp 1960s Batman.
Why so serious, indeed.
"Edge of Tomorrow" director Doug Liman is having none of that, and sets about wringing as much comedy from the time-repeating premise as he does explosive action.
Cruise is better than he's been in ages, doing real acting instead of repeating the earnest superhero-in-a-leather-jacket posing of "Jack Reacher", "Oblivion" and the "Mission: Impossible" movies. His Major William Cage is no hero: he's an advertising exec who took a wrong turn into the military, much to the delight of Bill Paxton's scenery-chewing sergeant.
The standout though is Emily Blunt, swapping Prada for armour as a toughened soldier -- inexplicably named Rita -- and effortlessly turning her hand to lithe action-figure heroics.
The wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey premise lends "Edge of Tomorrow" the feeling of a video game, as Cruise tries again and again, getting a little further each time, trying different things -- then being dispatched over and over but continually respawning.
As the repetitions layer on top of each other, a curious thing happens: I genuinely didn't know what was going to happen. Most movies, you pretty much know where they're going, but here I found myself wondering who would make it. And the repeating deaths didn't make me feel the characters' deaths less, but more -- because I knew that if Cruise managed to break the cycle, whoever was dead would stay dead.
If I have any complaint it's that the monsters are generic. With the time-loop gimmick providing all the momentum of the story, the monsters are more of a background threat, heavily CGI'd and lacking the unsettling detail that makes a classic movie baddie -- like dinosaurs not being able to see you if you stand still in "Jurassic Park", or the acid blood and snapping jaws in the "Alien" series.
Oh, and the 3D is a waste of time: aside from the usual clichéd debris flying out of the screen, with the glasses on the whole thing looks flatter than Emily Blunt's yoga-honed stomach. As so often, save your money and go 2D.
"Edge of Tomorrow" is in UK cinemas now, and in US theatres on Friday 6 June.