There seems to be part of the most powerful leading men when science-fiction action films become the modus operandi. Of Will Smith’s last five starring roles, three are firmly in science-fiction territory (“MIB3,” “Hancock,” and “After Earth”) while “I am Legend” borrowed heavily from the genre. Brad Pitt courted horror and science with “World War Z.” Tom Hanks stepped outside the box with the criminally underseen “Cloud Atlas.” Tom Cruise seems to be going through the same phase of his career. His last two films, including the current “Edge of Tomorrow,” are pure science-fiction action flicks. If pairing science with explosions is what it takes to keep the genre alive, it really is unfortunate. But if the film is actually well crafted, it’s forgivable. Cruise’s latest is.
In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Cruise plays Major Cage, a PR man in a military uniform. In the midst of an alien invasion, Cage has been fighting on the frontlines of public opinion in the news and around the world. When campaign commander General Brigham selects Cage to serve in the upcoming raid to retake Europe, Cage declines. Now demoted significantly, and void of any actual combat experience, Cage becomes the operator of a mechanized suit that places him directly in harm’s way. As the mission fails, Cage finds himself thrust back a day in time. Now stuck in a time loop of his last day on Earth, he finds guidance and assistance from war hero Rita (Emily Blunt).
Starting from the onset, the film thrusts Blunt as the badass and mission driven center of the film. This contradiction to many modern day action films makes the film feel fresher and more exciting. Cruise’s Cage must learn how to survive and find an escape from his time loop.
Since “Tropic Thunder,” Cruise has been more open to levity in his roles. “Edge of Tomorrow” creates a handful of chuckles at the expense of his character’s ineptitudes and resetting time. Time loop films can easily feel rehashed before the final act. Here, the story knows when to condense time and when to focus. The script is smart and doesn’t oversimplify a somewhat complex plot. Cruise is back to his usual entertaining endeavors. Let’s just hope this film doesn’t get lost in the summer shuffle of theaters. 3.5 out of 5 stars
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