'Edge of Tomorrow'

CAGE MATCH: William Cage (Tom Cruise) fights alongside Rita (Emily Blunt), an ace in a war against aliens.

In Edge of Tomorrow, brass-hatted communications officer William Cage (Tom Cruise) stupidly angers his CO, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), who is preparing D day II against Fortress Europe. The continent is occupied by alien "mimics"—they're like giant Rastafarian wigs made out of barbed wire, spinning around at high speeds like a carnival eggbeater ride. While mulling over the haywire-frightwig alien threat, ask why a man like Cage, who has prospered in the people-pleasing business, would decide to joke about hating the sight of blood to the supreme commander. A: Because, even in his 50s, Tom Cruise always has some manning up to do.

Busted down to private, Cage is the new meat in a death sandwich, militarily exo-skeletoned but killed instantly on the Normandy beachhead. He comes back to life to relive the events, this time with some extra knowledge of how to survive. Shortly after a number of deaths, Cage meets Rita (Emily Blunt) a celebrity ace of the war, the so-called "Angel of Verdun"; that World War I battlefield was the site of a rare defeat for the Frightwigs. The soldiers call her "Full Metal Bitch" because, like all fighting men, they're fans of obscure Kubrick. Minimalist acting on Blunt's part; she emotes believable trauma, without being all that interesting.

Doug Liman's straightforward mashup of Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers, taken from a highly derivative Japanese novel, has one strong virtue: it's close to Harry Harrison's parody of Robert Heinlein, Bill the Galactic Hero, complete with mean fellow soldiers, defective equipment and bloodthirsty sarges (Bill Paxton, excellent, is set to take over any R. Lee Ermey parts). Another virtue is the spirited finale in a post-apocalyptic Louvre: heads up Arc du Carrousel! Take that, I. M. Pei's glass pyramid, you're not so pretty now, are ya?

Early mysteries lead to cast-iron plot points, obvious solutions and the unlikely rational explanation for Cage's slightly different day, same shit. Some find Groundhog Day deep, but there isn't delve-worthy material here. The tomorrow we can forecast is the movies devolving into shooter games. Edge of Tomorrow's manifold deaths and reboots give that ominously huge gamer audience the pleasure they weren't getting in the cinema: the aspect of being able to reset and play again.

Edge of Tomorrow

PG-13; 113 MIN.

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