EDGE OF TOMORROW
** SPOILERS **
Edge of Tomorrow, though burdened with an awkward title*, is the best summer movie surprise of 2014. (Maybe they should have called it The Fault in Our Tom?) The fault in our hero, Tom Cruise, on the outset of Edge of Tomorrow is that he's a craven coward. Cannily inverting what we expect from him as a tight-jawed action hero, Cruise opens Edge of Tomorrow with a bona fide yellow streak down his back. Unfortunately for Cruise, a PR officer for the united Earth military currently losing a war against mechanical alien invaders called Mimics, his cowardice irritates general Brendan Gleeson so much that Gleeson kicks him into the front lines to fight the aliens and very likely die. Die Cruise does, hilariously. And, to his chagrin, over and over and over again.
For you see, and it takes Cruise a while for this to dawn on him, he's caught in a Groundhog Day scenario, forced to relive the same day repeatedly, by virtue of somehow absorbing the power of an alien he managed to kill. This alien power is Edge of Tomorrow's version of unlimited lives in a video game (up up, down down, left right left right, B A). Cruise, who is gifted with an excellent memory and a capacity to learn (very slowly at first - he's a lousy gamer on the outset), gradually realizes what's happening to him with the help of Emily Blunt, the only other human who previously held the same power. Cruise is in very top form; quite frankly, no one is more adept at coolly delivering complex exposition. Edge of Tomorrow plays Cruise's unlimited lives and multiple gory deaths for great laughs, until he finally improves his game enough to be a capable warrior. Edge of Tomorrow seamlessly shifts from unlikely comedy to a taut, sci-fi actioner as Cruise, Blunt and their team of roughnecks in cybernetic battle suits, get good enough to take on the aliens to save the world. Though he may have started as a sucky noob, Tom Cruise is welcome on my Halo team any time.
*The Japanese title, All You Need Is Kill, kicks ass.