A smarter-than-expected script turns this noisy sci-fi action movie into something remarkably entertaining. A-list stars, solid actors and whizzy effects aside, the dialogue is packed with clever observations that are both mind-bending and unexpectedly hilarious. And director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) lets his cast have a lot of fun with it.
In the near future when aliens called Mimics have rampaged across Europe, Cage (Tom Cruise) is a military media spokesman suddenly sent into the front-lines from London, battling the fearsome creatures on the beaches of Normandy. He's killed fairly quickly, but wakes up that same morning and is again sent through battlefield prep with harsh Sgt Farell (Bill Paxton) and a rag-tag team. Again and again. Eventually he breaks out of the pattern and discovers another soldier, Rita (Emily Blunt), who seems to understand why he is living this day over and over only to die each time. So he uses the repetition to figure out what's really going on, and he and Rita plot a way to stop the aliens for good.
Yes, the premise is a direct riff on Groundhog Day, as Cage makes the most of each day, learning something new that will get him further the next. And the film's script knowingly plays with the set-up, offering witty comments and some genuinely suspenseful set-pieces along the way, all sharply edited into a relatively coherent narrative, although the ending will generate a lot of post-screening debate. Liman packs the film with kinetic, intense action sequences that are rendered with strikingly realistic effects that occasionally have some extra fun with the 3D.
Cruise and Blunt make a terrific on-screen team, relying on Cruise's easy, youthful charm and Blunt's impressive acting chops. Even when they're engulfed in their full-body mechanical suits, their feisty personalities rise above the mayhem. And they're a lot of fun to watch interacting with terrific side characters like Brendan Gleeson's close-minded general, Noah Taylor's frazzled scientist, Paxton's blustering sergeant and the scrappy crewmates. Through it all, Liman maintains a breathless pace that makes every confrontation nerve-wracking. And of course the parallels with D-Day add just a vague hint of subtext.
Run time: 113 mins
In Theaters: Friday 6th June 2014
Box Office USA: $100.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $369.2M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., 3 Arts Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 218 Rotten: 24
IMDB: 8.0 / 10
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise as Maj. William "Bill" Cage, Emily Blunt as Sgt. Rita Vrataski, Brendan Gleeson as General Brigham, Bill Paxton as Msg. Farell, Jonas Armstrong as Skinner, Tony Way as Kimmel, Kick Gurry as Griff, Franz Drameh as Ford, Dragomir Mrsic as Kuntz, Charlotte Riley as Nance, Masayoshi Haneda as Takeda, Terence Maynard as Cruel Sergeant, Noah Taylor as Dr. Carter, Lee Asquith-Coe as Russian Soldier, Lara Pulver as Karen Lord, Madeleine Mantock as Julie, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Dr. Whittle, Jeremy Piven as Col. Walter Marx