Take comfort, moviegoers, in the ;fact that Tom Cruise, a man now comfortably in his 50s, isn't purported to be the indestructible action hero in Edge of Tomorrow that he was in 2012's stink fest Jack Reacher. Edge of Tomorrow, which opens on Friday at theaters across the region, isn't as "breathtakingly original" as trailer blurbs would have you believe; it is, in fact, a near-perfect hybrid of 2011's Source Code and the Bill Murray '80s classic Groundhog Day. But it's still got enough cleverness and big-budget alien fight sequences to delight the medium-threshold summer moviegoer.
Directed by Doug Liman, the guy who did The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Edge begins with military PR guy William Cage (Cruise) selling the world on the success of a unified transnational front against an incursion of alien life forms bent on total, radical conquest. The film, to its credit, understands the value of economy when it's working with material best summed up as "banter and explosions." Within 15 minutes, Cage is reluctantly (and for only vaguely explained reasons) thrust onto the front lines of a D-Day style offensive and is killed, still fiddling with the safety on his weaponized body armor.
But Cage, as he dies, detonates a bomb that destroys one of the alien "alphas" and is thereby imbued with the creature's raw time-thwarting power. Cage then re-lives untold iterations of that day, painstakingly improving his combat skills under the tutelage of supersoldier Rita (Emily Blunt), and choreographing an escape from the beach to destroy the aliens' lone big mama, the "Omega." Rita, as it turns out, had the time-thwarting power once herself but lost it when she received a blood transfusion after an injury. At one point in their training, Cage suggests transferring the power back to her.
"Oh, you mean like sex?" she asks. "Tried it. Doesn't work."
Cage thinks for a moment. "How many times?"
Edge derives much of its humor — and there's a fair bit — from the frustrations of re-establishing an intimate connection built piecemeal over months (and maybe years) in four to six hours; plus the non-stop death gags, which are often funny but which sometimes prompt a disquiet related to the "reset button" mentality of videogames that have so obviously adversely affected young people's understanding of and sensitivity to violence.
The film really is closer to a video game than anything I've ever seen on the silver screen. But, I mean, hey, Cruise is charming as hell, even at 52. Right?