The premise of Edge of Tomorrow is a tricky one: In a world besieged by seemingly unstoppable aliens, an untried soldier finds himself roped into combat and killed on the first day of a crucial battle. Then it happens again. Soon, he realizes he’ll have to fight his way out of this fatal time loop. But in the hands of the screenwriting team led by Christopher McQuarrie and director Doug Liman—doing some of his best action work since The Bourne Identity—this painful, brutal cycle is handled with such a light touch, it never feels bogged down. The deft pace, with the brisk but comforting feel of a movie that trusts its audience, is as technically admirable as it is engrossing, so we wince every time one of our heroes dies. Well, mostly.
Despite some early minutes of inspired cowardly smarm, Tom Cruise (whose William Cage replaces the source novel’s hero, Keiji Kiriya) is satisfactory but standard-issue, a performance rich in dutiful lockjaw. Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton and Noah Taylor provide welcome support, but the movie unquestionably belongs to Emily Blunt. Her Rita Vrataski is an effortless collection of hard edges who, in quiet moments, is unguarded without feeling filed down. No wonder she inspires awe wherever she goes. Liman wisely plays Cage’s infatuation with her less as a predestined plot than as an inevitable side effect of being in close orbit with someone so badass.
And though a summer action movie often barrels toward an all-out finale, and Edge of Tomorrow, in particular, is predicated on plenty of shoot-em-ups, the movie makes the most of small beats and clever cinematic sleight of hand. It all builds to great effect, and it makes for a summer flick you’ll want to go back and see all over again.