Does ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Actually Work?

Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

Rated PG-13

Four out of five stars

I’ve always said it: if only there could be an epic sci-fi version of Groundhog Day. OK, I never said that, but I’m glad there is one: it’s called “Edge of Tomorrow.”

The movie takes place in the near future. And when I say the near future, I mean CNN’s Wolf Blitzer makes a brief appearance and doesn’t look a day over the age he’s looked for the last 20 years. Aliens have attacked Earth and are conquering it, country by country. We now have a world army, and its public relations spokesman is Officer William Cage, played by Tom Cruise. He’s assigned to the pending invasion of France, a massive attack the army’s commander thinks is going to be a big victory for the humans. He wants Cage there for the battle’s aftermath, to paint a rosy picture for the world. But Cage has no interest in risking his life and attempts to blackmail the commander into keeping him away from the battle.

It backfires. Cage is arrested, knocked out, and wakes up a private in the army, with orders to fight. He’s strapped into an exo-suit — that’s powered, full-body armor — and dropped into Normandy, to do battle with the aliens. The humans are slaughtered, as if the aliens knew they were coming. Cage doesn’t make it either but just before he dies, he kills an alien that looks a little different than the rest — and then wakes up in the previous day, once again to do battle and die Over and over again.

Also Playing? “The Fault In Our Stars”

In the process, Cage notices Rita (Emily Blunt), a battlefield soldier known both as “The Angel of Verdun” and “Full Metal Bitch,” because she’s killed more aliens than anyone else. Each day, Cage tries and fails to save her life. He finally explains to her what’s been happening to him: “Come find me when you wake up,” Rita says, and dies again.

Turns out, Rita once possessed the same ability to live over that Cage does, but lost it. Now she’s going to train Cage, every day he dies and returns, to stop the aliens once and for all.

Director Doug Liman (“Swingers,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Fair Game”) does great work with Cruise and Blunt. In particular, he draws out Cruise’s natural humor, lending a sense of fun to this character that we don’t get to see when Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in the “Mission: Impossible” movies, or indeed any other character Cruise has played in the various action and sci-fi movies he’s done over the past decade. But it’s Blunt who seems almost a revelation here, as she directs her considerable talents to tackling an unaccustomed action role.

Minor continuity issues and a few trite moments do little to diminish “Edge of Tomorrow,” a generally super-smart sci-fi action thriller that’s mostly unpredictable, and a pleasure to watch.

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