Time-loops are at the heart of Edge of Tomorrow, and when the film was first announced it felt as if Hollywood was in one too. Tom Cruise in an action movie that borrows elements from other films? Anyone else getting a sense of déjà vu?
"Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers!" we cried as the film edged towards release. It was the kind of summer blockbuster one could plot out in its entirety before viewing, with a lead actor putting in the kind of performance we've seen a hundred times before.
It comes with some surprise that Edge of Tomorrow is actually a hell of a lot of fun.
Sure it's not going to change the world and it has a standard world-saving plot, but with good performances, good direction and some nice set pieces. This is pleasing summer cinema - a filling slice of pizza rather than gourmet cuisine.
Tom Cruise plays against type for the first half of the film as Major Bill Cage, a cowardly PR man drafted into the army for a final, desperate push against a relentless alien scourge. Sent to the frontlines, Cage attempts to weasel his way out but fails, waking handcuffed in a Heathrow base and labelled a deserter.
Coming face-to-moustachioed face with Bill Paxton's Master Sergeant and with no weapons training, Cage finds himself on a Normandy-like beach assault. He soon dies at the hands of a mysterious alien unlike the rest, and it's déjà vu time, wakening once again at the same Heathrow, in the same handcuffs and chastised by the same moustachioed face.
Again and again it happens, and only Emily Blunt's war hero Rita Vrataski holds the answers. The two team up with Cage using his surplus of time to learn a little more and become a better solider with each day and death. Together they forge a plan to use Cage's inherited time-manipulation to end the war.
How the time-loops work just about holds up, making it two almost-logical time-travel movies (X-Men: Days of Future Past is the second) in two weeks for Hollywood, for which they deserve a pat on the back.
For all the sci-fi infusions however, the film succeeds because of its demeanour and characters, who are given just enough personality to make the audience root for them, if not remember them for long.
Cruise is great in his more cowardly moments but as the film reaches its climax he moves closer and closer to the default Tom Cruise action hero audiences have been growing increasingly tired of. At least that transformation makes sense though. Dying day in day out for possibly years would make anyone jaded, and certainly slap the coward out of them.
It's Emily Blunt who shines however, proving once again (after 2012's cult sci-fi Looper, another time-loop movie) that she can play tough, no-nonsense, arse-kickers with aplomb. Someone just give her an action movie of her own already!
A fun supporting cast fronted by Paxton and a surprise turn from Brendan Gleeson also adds to Edge of Tomorrow's winning formula.
If there's a problem it's with the threat itself. The alien 'Mimics' work well as an unstoppable extra-terrestrial force, but never convince as anything other than objects for stomping and shooting, rather than creatures that might conceivably exist.
Their wild, flailing movements help sell the frantic nature and terror of the war, but they do little else, which makes the action scenes a little samey by the final act. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, stretching the shaky logic to near breaking point, but it's forgivable given what the film ultimately is.
It lacks the kind of originality that could have made it a real classic, but in targetting all-out entertainment first and foremost, Edge of Tomorrow proves itself to be the kind of brainlessly fun action blockbuster there really should be more of.
With successes routed in a great cast, a fun script and Doug Liman's servicable, experienced direction, Edge of Tomorrow is a delightful surprise and for Cruise a welcome return to form.
Watch the trailer of Edge of Tomorrow