Every new Tom Cruise movie these days almost demands immediate analysis about what his latest means for him and his career. In the case of Edge of Tomorrow, the science-fiction war movie that weds Starship Troopers with Saving Private Ryan with Groundhog Day, it means a lot of fun. Cruise plays a military mouthpiece whose only job is to sell the war against invading aliens to the public, but when the commanding general (Brendan Gleason) orders him to the front on D-Day, he tries to talk his way out of it, gets demoted, and finds himself dropped on the French beach in the middle of a nightmarish fiasco. He bites it within five minutes, but not before an encounter with one of the alien Mimics leaves him with a special gift — or curse. Every time he dies, he wakes up the day before, in the same place, facing the same circumstances. Little by little, he has to learn how to survive and possibly win the war.
The film, directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) is based on All You Need is Kill, the 2004 novel by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka. It takes its cues from Groundhog Day, the karmic comedy in which Bill Murray is stuck living the same day over and over again until he finally becomes a selfless human being, as well as modern video games, with their quick-reset learning curve. Emily Blunt plays a cold and calculating war hero who might understand what Cruise’s overmatched soldier is experiencing, and Bill Paxton plays the good ol’ boy sergeant responsible for getting Cruise on the beach.
But c’mon: what does Edge of Tomorrow really mean for Cruise and his career? “He manages to show us why he still matters as a movie star — one of the last in a dinosaur species that once lorded over the multiplex like a colossus,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “Whether you loved or merely tolerated his past few efforts as a leading man, he’s never given less than everything he has. He still cares at a time when caring is dismissed as outdated and square.“
Guess what? Many of the nation’s leading critics agree. The Edge of Tomorrow might be Cruise’s best movie since Collateral.
Read more from Nashawaty’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below.