Edge of Tomorrow
“Just make sure you don’t outshine me again this time, Emily.” ©Warner Bros

You’re all familiar with the premise by now. A soldier in the war against an alien invasion finds himself dying and repeating the same day over and over again. His only hope: super soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) who, as it turns out, knows exactly what he is experiencing…

How many times have we seen Tom Cruise play the same character over and over again? You can already predict the narrative beats, a repetitive storyline that started all the way back in 1986 with Top Gun: Cocksure hero who is damn good at what he does experiences a crisis of confidence, only to be redeemed in the final act. Audiences lap it up because he does it so well.

Which is why it is such a delight to watch the Cruiser playing, well, a coward. PR man Lieutenant-Colonel William Cage is as gutless as his uniform is crisp, easily declaring:  “I can’t stand the sight of blood. Not so much as a paper cut.” Thrown into the battlefield – the reason for this is never quite fully explained – he literally flaps his arms about and can’t even get the safety off his weapons.  And once the Groundhog Day bit starts, we have the novelty of watching Cruise die in a myriad of ways, oftentimes while screaming like a little girl.

Edge of Tomorrow
©Warner Bros

It’s not the first time Cruise has subverted his heroic persona. He was at his most vulnerable in Born On The Fourth Of July (1989), and in recent years, went very dark in War Of The Worlds (2005). But director Doug Liman’s sure direction of a fairly complicated storyline draws out a compelling performance from Cruise.

Even before Vrataski enters the frame, we get our biggest bonus of the movie: Sci-fi icon Bill Paxton as wry, salt of the earth Master Seargent Farrell. His presence almost makes you want to cheer, especially when he launches into a wonderful monologue. The only pity is that he doesn’t quite partake of the ass-kicking, unlike his Colonial Marine days in Aliens (1986).

But once the action starts, it is big and loud and brilliant. We are treated to the minutiae of a full scale invasion, akin to watching Allied troops prepare for D-Day. The camera drops us into the middle of the action in a way not seen since Saving Private Ryan (1998), and the extended sequence where Cruise’s squad assaults a beachhead sees men literally dropping like flies. And the Mimics, or alien invaders who have laid waste to the Earth, are quite simply terrifying.

Edge of Tomorrow
©Warner Bros

But it is the presence of Vrataski that brings the movie to the next level, as the mentor figure to Cruise. At first glance, her delicate features might suggest someone incapable of donning a heavy battle suit and being an action hero. Blunt has even admitted that the first time she donned the 85-pound exosuit, she almost cried. But watch her in action, and you will most assuredly want her at your back during an alien invasion.

World weary and almost resigned to her death, Cage awakens a new vigour in Vrataski as she trains him to fight the Mimics with each passing – or is it repeating – day. And Vrataski isn’t just the stereotypical demanding trainer: she will literally kill you if you don’t meet her standards.

It is to Liman’s credit that the constant repetition never becomes numbing or predictable. But this is a Tom Cruise movie, so we all know that he can never be allowed to lose or die. What could have been an ending with great pathos instead turns into your regulation cop-out conclusion, which is what prevented this Edge of Tomorrow review from declaring it an almost perfect movie.

But EoT is more than worth your time: as moving as it is funny, the entire spectacle makes this one of the best movies of 2014.

Edge of Tomorrow opens in Singapore this Thursday. In the meantime, check out our post on six things you didn’t know about EoT!