Watching a Tom Cruise movie comes with the implicit understanding that the three-time Oscar nominee is most likely to play the hero and, should his character perish, he’ll receive a glorious sendoff at the end. The surprisingly absorbing Edge of Tomorrow
upturns that assumption within the first 20 minutes. Cruise plays William Cage, a public-relations maven thrust into a Normandy-like battle, with the forces of our embattled planet going like lambs to the slaughter against occupying aliens. He isn’t at all prepared for war, and watching his balletic descent from a Space Age drop ship is dizzying and horrific. A few minutes after landing on the alien-infested beach, he’s dead. Then he wakes up. For convoluted reasons, Cage finds himself reliving the same 24-hour period—always ending in his own demise—ad nauseam. They say it takes 10,000 hours to truly master something, and Cage slowly becomes a master of death. The recursive conceit often seems poised to devolve into a cheap gimmick, but, much like Cage, it consistently makes slight course corrections that keep it feeling fresh. The most striking presence here is Emily Blunt as a lionized soldier who once bore the very burden that Cage is trying to understand. Constantly reliving the same day made her a battle hero, but it also forced her to witness the death of a loved one hundreds of times. That sort of trauma doesn’t disappear when you hit the reset button.