Live. Die. Repeat. The world is at war again with an alien race called “Mimic” and this time, we are not going to win.
Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is a cocky, glib spin doctor to the army. A man who can make even dying for your a country seems attractive to the target market. When obliged by General Brigham (Gleeson) to embed with troops, set for a D-Day style landing next day, his own spin is suddenly less appealing and he resists.
Waking up the next morning, he finds himself in a nightmare. Sent to boot camp and busted to private, where no-one listens to his protestations. Following a well played cliché military motivational speech from Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton), he is introduced to his new squad.
Before Cage can ask “how do you turn the safety off”, he is quite literally hurled into battle, landing on the beachhead and facing a mechanised whirling dervish of an enemy that kills anything and everything it’s path.
Things do not go well, Cage is terrified and completely unprepared. He manages to kill something more by accident than design, gets splashed with alien blood, then it’s “game over man”.
Waking up, Cage suddenly finds himself in a time loop or rebooted, starting the same day again at boot camp. Whilst he retains the knowledge of the previous day, no-one else does. Think “Groundhog Day: The Military years”.
Forced to repeat, Cage slowly learns the moves, actions and knowledge he requires to move forward. Eventually he teams up with Sgt Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the very soldier he used in his recruitment drive. Vrataski is everything he is not, brave, resourceful and a highly skilled combat soldier.
Of course Cage has plenty of time to learn, so learn is what he does.
Arguably Cruise is the last true movie star we have, so it is good to see him back on the big screen in a solid action film. Irrespective of your views on all the tabloid fodder, Cruise is a solid, professional actor, who has been doing this longer than most, he does not disappoint here.
Once sent to war, Cruise does terrified believably, yet he also manages to convey the transition to a battle weary and hardened combat vet equally well. Blunt is an excellent feminine action hero, looking mean, tough and more than a little hot, at the same time. This will make her the go to actress for roles that Angelina Jolie no longer wants to play.
The film resembles a computer game in some ways, the protagonist is obliged to learn moves to progress, coming up against end of level baddies before confronting the final boss showdown. The first decent computer game movie, yet not based upon one.
The effects and action are state of the art, as you would expect. Director Doug Liman of “Mr and Mrs Smith” fame, knows how to shoot action sequences. The action is very PG friendly to appeal to a broader audience base, maybe losing losing something in the process but certainly not lacking intensity.
Both leads are well up to the task, injecting a level of humanity usually missing in such films, with Blunt the obvious stand out. Cruise gets to ride a motorcycle round deserted London streets and indulge his passion for sequences most actors hand off to stuntmen. The grunts in the squad get a mention for being believable, ensuring later scenes are more poignant.
Not a classic perhaps but a fine entry into the Sc-Fi action category. The screenwriters have wisely made a good job of editing the repeating scenes, portraying repetition without forcing the audience to watch the same scenes over and over again. Just when you think, do we have to watch this again, they manage to pivot away, once the extra information has been relayed.
There is plenty of humour and the story does not take itself too seriously. Vrataski offers a cuddle up by the fire or just a brutal reset, it’s your choice. It is also fun not knowing how many times Cage has completed each task or sequence, before he gets it right. It is undeniably refreshing to watch a film that is not a sequel, reboot, prequel or involves a superhero.
Niggles are few, the alien enemy horde are reminiscent of some of the “Transformers” troops, maybe another choice would have been more distinctive. Whilst not normally advocating more violence on screen, cause and effect is not always obvious and Cruise might have relished dying on-screen for a change.
A solid action film that is fun, entertaining and humorous. Cruise and Blunt get most of the screen time and make a fine action film pairing.