Edge of Tomorrow succeeds on teamwork and smarts

Tom Cruise makes a solid rebound and Emily Blunt holds her own when they team up to fight an alien invasion in Edge of Tomorrow. Publicity photo Tom Cruise makes a solid rebound and Emily Blunt holds her own when they team up to fight an alien invasion in Edge of Tomorrow. Publicity photo

It’s not unreasonable to imagine that Tom Cruise, perhaps the last of the old school movie stars, had lost it. He hasn’t had a bona fide hit since 2011 with Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, and as good as some of that movie is, it certainly coasts on the strength of being part of a big franchise.

And as good as moments of Jack Reacher are, it left audiences cold (though how could anyone not want to hear Werner Herzog describe eating his own fingers to stay alive?). And forget Rock of Ages. Just forget it. And forget Cruise’s personal life, too.

How wonderful it is to report that Edge of Tomorrow has all the signs of a creative team and studio wanting to make a good, borderline great, action spectacular.

Cruise is at his best, leaving behind his maniacal laughter and smirk (mostly). His character, Major William Cage, is a U.S. Army public relations official, the American face of the Armed Forces in the wake of a deadly alien invasion that’s spreading through Europe and on the verge of destroying the planet.

When in London to meet General Brigham (an appropriately dark Brendan Gleeson), the man in charge of a multinational assault against the invading aliens, Cage is informed he’ll be on the front lines of the attack in France, filming with a PR camera crew. Cage, showing genuine cowardice, protests, and Brigham has him arrested, drugged, busted in rank to private and sent to the front, not just to cover the invasion, but fight in it.

On the beach in France, Cage meets Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the face of Army recruitment, and the only soldier to successfully kill a bunch of the so-called alien mimics. And then, unceremoniously, they both have their asses handed to them. And then Cage wakes up the morning before the invasion as if nothing has happened to him.

Jokes about Groundhog Day aside, the reason Cage keeps getting killed and then waking up the day before he dies makes sense—at least as much as it needs to. It also becomes a nifty plot device and a source of humor between Cage and Vrataski as it’s revealed she once had the power to start over, too.

The several screenwriters and director Doug Liman (rebounding well after a bomb and a misfire, Jumper and Fair Game, respectively) make a wise choice in delivering Vrataski as the action hero, and Blunt nimbly toes the line between hard-ass and human being. She carries the movie as much as Cruise, and it will be interesting to see whether Blunt ends up in more action flicks.

And Cruise takes a risk—though “risk” to a movie star is a relative term—not just playing a coward but reveling in it and having fun. The aliens are creepy without being gross, the screenplay is smart, and Cruise and Blunt make a great team as they try to find the alien leader. Plus, Bill Paxton pops up giddily in a supporting role. Cruise’s next movie is apparently Mission: Impossible 5, so enjoy him in an excellent non-Ethan Hunt action film while you can.

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