Edge of Tomorrow's influence is clear. Just as last year's Oblivion took inspiration from cult sci-fi Moon, Tom Cruise's follow-up is clearly influenced by time-loop action flick Source Code.
Both influences were directed by Duncan Jones, so clearly Cruise is a fan. But whereas Oblivion was a lesser entry in the Top Gun star's pantheon of blockbusters, his latest seems far closer to par.
Introduced by its star, we were lucky enough to see 20 minutes of the film before a quick Q&A with director Doug Liman, but what did we see?
***Warning: Spoilers from early scenes and scenes halfway through the film follow ***
The premise is simple. Tom Cruise's PR man turned unwilling, untrained soldier finds himself re-living the same day over and over during the last days of a bloody war against invading alien forces.
Said aliens aren't the focus of the story – what we see is a relationship boom and blossom over and over as Cruise's Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cage meets hardened alien-slaying badass Rita Vrataski, played by Brit Emily Blunt.
We start at Heathrow airport, the base of operations for the human forces looking to invade France (always a good idea) and quell the alien threat. Cruise wakes up in hand-cuffs before coming face-to-face with Bill Paxton's sergeant - who tells him he's a deserter.
Dragged to the frontlines we see a battle that's part the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan and Lost, only with added space monsters and exo-skeleton ass-kicking suits. Directed with aplomb there's a real sense of chaos without the direction devolving into a mess of shaky-cam that doesn't show the action clearly.
Cage dies after being cornered by an alien unlike the rest, and detonating a mine between the two of them. He awakens back at Heathrow in the same position we found him. To say he's a bit confused would be an understatement.
Just how the footage fits into the film, and where each scene comes from, remains to be seen. Director Doug Liman suggested it skipped through the film a bit, which was a little disconcerting.
The pacing of the footage we were shown was spot on – never spending too long on the details and having fun referencing time-loops the viewer hasn't seen. It also references unseen loops by showing Cage as a more competent soldier, who knows what to expect and where. Much better than a montage.
Eventually Cage gets close enough to Blunt's Rita Vrataski to deliver a message. Before they both die she tells him to find her when he wakes. She later reveals that she too found herself in a loop once but "lost it" – now she wants to use Cage to help win the war.
Now we get something more like a montage, as Cage tackles a human-constructed obstacle course with enormous metal claws serving as the alien targets. He fails, breaking his back, so Vrataski nonchalantly shoots him in the head to start another loop.
It's dark, but it certainly got a laugh. The two characters' treatment of their situation is fresh, particularly given Cruise's penchant for playing the same character (basically a middle-aged Maverick) in all his recent films. He's funny, and he's clearly having fun as Cage, who director Liman says is a "coward all the way through" the film and a character Crusie isn't used to playing.
Of course there's only so much range to modern Cruise, and he is still largely that same character. The sense of humour is refreshing though, and makes him his most relatable since Mission Impossible III.
Sometime later (again, difficult to tell exactly when but I'd guess half way through) the pair find themselves in a farmhouse looking for the keys to a helicopter. Here we get the traditional male/female leads patching each other up scene, and the two bond.
Things take a darker turn, however, when Blunt figures out that they must have been to that farmhouse many times before. Cage then tells her that he knows exactly where the keys are and has been delaying the inevitable because, as he tells her, "this is where you die, this is as far as you go".
Stubborn, Vrataski enters the chopper and starts the engine, despite Cage's knowledge of nearby aliens which attacked and killed them numerous times before. She turns the key, the footage ends.
Going in to the screening I had minimal interest in the film beyond Blunt – who seems to be continuing a run of playing badasses which started with 2012's Looper. The footage made me much more interested, however. What I saw was well-directed and the script carries a nice sense of humour that from the sounds of Liman's comments will echo throughout the feature.
Edge of Tomorrow is out in the UK on 30 May 2014.