Somewhere in the marketing department of of Warner Bros. is a group of supposedly smart people who managed to make the brilliant Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick Edge of Tommorow into a box office disappointment. They need to be unemployed immediately and frankly should've been cashiered last year when they came up with the fatal mistake of renaming it from the source graphic novel's awesome title: All You Need Is Kill. How badass is that title? A: Muy badass! Hell, they should've called it Live Die Repeat (the tag line) because it sums up the plot succinctly and to call it Starship Groundhog Troopers Day may give the wrong idea though that's pretty much what it is.
Cruise is Major Bill Cage, a spokesman for the United Defense Force who goes on television to talk up the war effort against the Mimics, an alien race that has captured all of Europe. Summoned by the Supreme Commander in London he is informed that he is to be part of the media team covering the invasion of France (shades of D-Day) with the soldiers. He's never actually served in combat (he did ROTC in college) and only joined the military media relations team after his ad agency folded post-invasion, so he's not inclined to go where the real danger and he tries to blackmail the General into letting him off. It does not go well.
He wakes up finding himself in handcuffs at an army base the day before the invasion is to occur, with Master Sargent Bill Paxton (who is now Apone!) believing him to be a deserter, stripped of rank, a green private. Assigned to the squad of colorful misfits and unable to even figure out how to turn off the safety on his mech armor suit's guns, he's not long for this world but neither are anyone else as the invasion is a total calamity for the Mimics seem to have known they're coming. He manages to blunder across the landing beach until he is ultimately killed.
Then wakes back up where he began at the base the day before.
As he rapidly learns from Emily Blunt's kickass "Angel of Verdun" - aka Full Metal Bitch, the face of the war effort - when he died, blood from the Mimic that took him out mixed with his and now he had the Mimics ability to reset time, reliving the previous day endlessly and thus allowing him to learn by trial-and-error. And there are a LOT of errors. LOTS. Various people have tried to figure out how many Groundhog Days Bill Murray lived through (this guy has almost 34 years) and I'm sure someone will try and figure out how many laps Cruise takes here, but it's clearly a mind-boggling high number.
What makes Edge of Tomorrow work so brilliantly is a combination of factors beginning with a very sharp script adaptation by The Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie and brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (who also penned the upcoming James Brown biopic Get On Up?!) which cleanly sets up the rules of the universe (though the aliens powers and motives aren't clear, but generally irrelevant) and then trust the audience to keep up. What the ads don't show is just how funny the movie is in its telling.
Next star goes to Cruise for his subtly layered performance. For this story to work, we have to sympathize with the jerk whose initial poor decision makes saving the world possible and in lesser hands, the balance could've been thrown off. I don't get some people's aversion to him - yeah, the Xenu stuff and couch-jumping is wacky packs, but people manage to get past a LOT of reprehensible stuff about other celebs (drugs, cheating, cuddling with Third World dictators) while putting their foot down hard on Cruise. (My girlfriend adamantly refuses to watch this despite my enthusiasm because she can't stand his face.)
Finally, kudos to director Doug Liman who brings the steady action chops that made The Bourne Identity and especially Mr. & Mrs. Smith successes, clearly conducting the kinetic action in a comprehensible manner. When you realize how much is VFX - I can't wait for the making-of stuff on the Blu-ray - it's that much more impressive.
If there's a fault, it's in the ending which can be called predictable or perhaps a cheat, but when you consider the predictable menu of binary options (i.e. he saves the day or doesn't; he lives or he dies for good) available, they went with the least awful combination platter. I've seen some complain; I'm cool with it. Ignore the title and have a blast.
Score: 9/10. Pay full price.