Tom Cruise actioners, especially the most recent entries, have been deeply bland. Thankfully Edge of Tomorrow isn’t Jack Reacher or Knight and Day, and despite what the trailers made us think, this isn’t Groundhog Day with guns. Edge of Tomorrow is a typical action oriented movie that manages to be exciting and fast paced without resorting to shaky cameras or lens flares and funny without the need for ridiculous camp.

Cruise’s William Cage is a spokesperson/propaganda man for the US military and its allies fighting a war against the alien Mimics. However, Cage is really just an empty suit; when told to go into combat, he reveals his own cowardice and attempts to go AWOL while also threatening a superior officer (Brendan Gleason) with blackmail. Having Cruise play someone so unheroic – at least for the first quarter of the film – is, honestly, a breath of fresh air. He’s made a career on playing the gallant, stalwart action hero and to see him play the opposite gives credence to the idea that this isn’t going to be the usual fare.

Of course, Cage is arrested and forced into combat where he is quickly killed, only to wake up yesterday. This is because of the plot device blood of the Mimics; Cage was doused in Mimic blood during the battle and the blood was absorbed into his body, giving him this power. Regardless, Cage continually attempts to desert or keep the battle from happening. He always ends up in the battle again, dying, and looping back to the day before. Eventually, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) who is the poster child of the defense force (known as the Angel of Verdun and Full Metal B—h) believes him because she used to be able to loop as well. What luck!

The usual happens from here — Cage is trained by Vrataski via montage, the battle is replayed with slightly different variations, they start to fall in love, only to continually fail at everything. Thankfully, the script by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth is an economical one. Our time isn’t wasted in multiple reruns, and the focus of the story is quickly shifted to an exploration of the Mimics and how to better fight them. The Mimics are controlled by a singular consciousness called Omega (apparently the Mimics are Greek), which is housed – for some reason – on Earth and its destruction becomes the thrust of the second half of the film.

Despite some incredibly familiar tropes, the film is quite fun, and remains fresh enough, not only to keep you watching, but also to keep you pleased with the story as it unfolds.

Edge of Tomorrow is based on the Japanese YA novel All you Need is Kill from Hiroshi Sakurazaka, though is substantially more adult in its themes and actions than typical young adult fare. In all honesty, this film is closer to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers than the eponymous franchise it produced (and oddly enough, Heinlein’s novel was written and marketed as a young adult novel of its day as well).

While the film lacks any real surprises in its plotting or character arcs, surprises are not always needed to tell a good story. Director Doug Liman and his writers fashioned a three dimensional world and explored it plenty — from the military, to the civilians, to the aliens and the numerous battlegrounds in between, and sprinkled with minor notes of social commentary that doesn’t beat the audience over the head, this is a well formed film that doesn’t pander to the idea of franchising itself; therefore, nothing is left back to plan for a sequel.

The flaws in the film are rather small. We’re told that the military has developed super soldiers, though they’re just regular soldiers with battle armor – and that’s not what a super soldier is. The suits themselves seem more like a hindrance than anything else. They’re clunky, heavy and slow. Cage attempts to run away, but literally can’t get two feet because the suit is loud and he can’t move any faster than the corpse on the ground beside him. It’s also odd that the exo-suits, which are meant to be offensive as well as defensive, can’t really do much of either for the wearer. Most of the body – including the chest and the head – are left unprotected, and though the suits increase the strength of the wearer, it’s difficult to maneuver unless you’ve spent as much time in them as Vrataski which most of these soldiers have apparently not.

Moreover, the plot is redolent with conveniences and contrivances, though that may just be a result of economical storytelling. William Cage’s journey from coward to hero is the heart of the movie, but is not fully explored. By the final act, Cage is any other Tom Cruise character – reflexively courageous and always prepared with a smile. If more time had been spent on developing Cage’s cowardice, and the moment that he realizes he’s overcome it, then the resultant act of heroism would have been more meaningful to the story and for the audience.

That said, Edge of Tomorrow is an enclosed story that creates a fascinating jumping on point with an interesting new take on its hero and ends with a feeling that the story, like the war itself, is complete.

Read more about: