June 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Edge of Tomorrow' surprisingly fun alien invasion flick with a twist

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Tom Cruise dies again and again but comes back 'Groundhog Day' style in a fight against aliens in 'Edge of Tomorrow.' (Warner Bros.)

Every time you lose consciousness you wake up and it’s the beginning of the same day. Day after day after day.

It worked for Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” It sort of worked for Jake Gyllenhaal in “Source Code.” And now, somewhat surprisingly, it works for Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Of course, every day Cruise wakes up he’s battling squiggly-wiggly things from outer space. So that kind of takes some of the fun out of it, for Cruise’s character at least.

Luckily director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) has made sure to make the movie itself quite a bit of fun. Cruise’s action exploits are always most successful when they’re cheeky, and there’s plenty of cheek here.

It also helps that co-star Emily Blunt (this may be the closest thing Cruise has ever made to a buddy movie) is suddenly revealed as a full-blown action queen hottie. She’s a regular slice and dice machine when it comes to those squiggly-wigglies.

The time is the near future and the aliens, having overrun Europe, are about to jump the channel to England. The world’s armed forces are preparing for a D-Day type invasion. The chance that they might succeed has been sold to the world’s television audience thanks to a former ad man, Major Cage (Cruise).

But when Cage finds out he’s being assigned to film the invasion from within — in other words, go into battle — he bolts. That’s right, Tom Cruise plays a devout coward in this film.

Cage is taken into custody and given no training at all, one day before the invasion. Then he’s dragged onto a plane, dropped onto a beach and suddenly things are real. Turns out the whole thing is a set-up, aliens have buried themselves beneath the sand and they begin slaughtering soldiers.

Our reluctant hero gets lucky for a few minutes, but then a particularly large alien attacks him, a bomb goes off, and he’s dead.

Except he isn’t. That particular alien had magical blue time-travel blood (of course it did), which lets Cage wake up the day before the invasion over and over and over again. He keeps getting shipped off to battle and keeps getting killed, usually in darkly humorous ways. Eventually he learns to navigate the repetitive days, but he still keeps getting killed.

Then during one battle he runs into Rita (Blunt), the hero behind humankind’s only victory. She realizes what’s happened to Cage — it happened to her — and tells him to contact her next time he wakes up.

He does and the film then takes on the feel of a videogame. Every day Cage has to explain himself to Rita, then they have to work out all the exact moves they’ll need to survive on the battlefield and eventually destroy the enemy, thus saving mankind (it is a Tom Cruise movie, after all).

“Edge of Tomorrow” is one of those preposterous films that just guts out its ridiculous premise: Of course this is silly, it says, but isn’t it fun to watch? And the truth is Cruise’s easy charm (somehow intact despite everything), Liman’s confident direction and Blunt’s surly sincerity combine to sell the whole thing. Is this great art? Of course not. But it’s a kick.

'Edge of Tomorrow'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material

Running time: 113 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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Emily Blunt plays Rita, a soldier who's had the only victory in battle ... (Warner Bros.)