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“It’s war out there today. It’s war out there everyday.”

EDGE OF TOMORROW is the newest sci-fi actioner of the summer starring Tom Cruise as an Army officer who finds himself in a time loop while on the frontlines of fighting off an alien invasion. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) directs this film as a maestro of chaos, deftly balancing the dread of war with a dark comedic touch. Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton co-star respectively as Rita Vrataski and Master Sgt. Farell.

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As Major William Cage, Tom Cruise seemingly plays the proud military hero stock character at first, providing a face for the United Defense Force and their battalions of exo-suits. However, we learn early on that Cage’s façade for the media leaves him ill prepared for the front wave of action, and after a frenzied, nightmarish failure on the battlefield, Cage finds himself back at the start of the day.

This portion of the film provides much of the film’s unexpected humor, as Cage tries desperately to convince his squadron of their doom and to avoid being put back into the slaughter. There seems to be only one person that believes him, and that’s Rita Vrataski, the UDF’s deadliest warrior who has also experienced the time loop. Together, they have to find a way to stop the invasion of the alien “mimics.”

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Liman and his writing team of Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) and Jez & John-Henry Butterworth have adapted Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel “All You Need Is Kill” into an intense live-action anime that grows in intensity. Cage and Vrataski are living the ultimate high-stakes video game, using the tried and true mechanic of learning through repetition. This is probably the closest we can get to dramatizing the process of learning fight choreography in/for a movie, as the characters commit tactical maneuvers to muscle memory.

Tom Cruise has a solid arc in the film, as we watch the coward William Cage transform into a weapon forged in the fires of infinite battles. Emily Blunt joins the pantheon of cinematic badassery with her portrayal of the war-weary Vrataski, playing the heroic role an actor like Cruise would usually play. It’s basically Emily Blunt as Tom Cruise, teaching Tom Cruise to be Tom Cruise, but she still gives Vrataski a vulnerability and a fierce elegance.

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Bill Paxton’s Sgt. Farell is 180 degrees from his Aliens character Pvt. Hudson, his gruff platitudes becoming more musical with each repeat. Aside from that, and a serviceable supporting cast, it’s a two-person show between Cruise and Blunt as they become a fighting force. Thankfully, it’s a good one as both leads are magnetic; Liman has a good track record of cinematic duos with great chemistry (Brangelina, anyone?).

Let’s talk about the exo-suits, shall we? Pierre Bohanna, who also designed Nolan’s Dark Knight batsuit as well as various props for the Harry Potter series, has done amazing work with these turbocharged future suits. These are the power armors we missed out on in Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (easier to pull off in a book than in a 1997 film). The tactile nature of these exo-suits are very convincing, earning a place alongside Ripley’s Power Loader and the Avatar AMP Suit.

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Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis and his VFX team(s) have done great work, expanding the doomsday canvas of the war and giving us aliens that truly look and feel alien. The “mimics” are impossible to describe, as if the sound effects from dubstep coalesced into physical beings and decided to invade the planet. Also, Cinematographer Dion Beebe gives us a gritty, desaturated palette that zips into life once Cage activates his powers. And the editing team of James Herbert and Laura Jennings do an excellent job of giving the time loops a comedic sense of timing.

The film features a 3D conversion, and not a bad one. Though compared to other sci-fi films like this summer’s Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past, the stereo effect is more subtle than it needed to be, especially for a future war with friggin’ exo-suits. Still, the visual impact is best felt on a large-format screen, but you won’t miss much from a 2D viewing.

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Truth be told, this film borrows a lot from war cinema and time-travel tropes (one scene recalls Cruise’s own Minority Report), but it’s refreshing to see a bold and (mostly) original sci-fi action flick. These have proven to be Cruise’s bread-and-butter as of late (Oblivion, War of the Worlds), and Edge of Tomorrow is his most enjoyable yet. It’s Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day, and yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.

Rating: [IMAX/matinee/dollar-show/redbox/netflix/skip-it]

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