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Edge of Tomorrow

Here and there in Tom Cruise’s thirty-odd-year-long career can be found evidence of a yearning for mature, accomplished work, the kind he did in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia fifteen years ago. But in recent years his career has been given to muscular megalithic action-pic tent-polers, pitched to mass global audiences. He seems to have parked his actorly ambition someplace, perhaps for good.

Now he’s the star power in something that resembles an inadvertent parody of those mass-market vehicles, the rip-snortingly ridiculous Edge of Tomorrow. I think I’m pretty good at summarizing movie plots, if I do say so myself. But this one has me buffaloed. It’s a farrago of nearly impenetrable foolishness. I’ll confess: I had real trouble keeping track of what was supposed to be going on in it. I’ll venture a guess that virtually no one could accurately recap its details without the aid of a web-sourced crib sheet. Some writers will be bluffing.

Essentially, Doug Liman’s movie is a mind-boggling mashup of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (Cruise was in Spielberg’s movie version) and Groundhog Day. If that sounds a little screwy, I’m with you. It’s the near future. Cruise is Major Cage, a US Army PR type who presents himself at the London office of the commander of the international United Defense Force (Brendan Gleeson as a rather improbable general). It seems Earth is under terrible attack by invading creatures from outer space, murderous beasts who came here via meteors (I think), and are easily overwhelming this world’s defenses. Actually, we get most of this from a swift montage of simulated TV reports just before Cage’s arrival, so we’re slam-bang plopped down in the thick of things from the get-go, without much prep.

Things get silly very quickly. Dismayed to learn that the general wants Cage to accompany the earth’s armies on a landing on French beaches in order to photograph the perilous action, the desk-bound flack panics and tries to flee. He’s captured, and wakes the next morning at an embarkation camp to find he’s been busted to private. He’s clapped into a Robocop-like weaponized armor he doesn’t know how to operate and, terrified, dropped from a plane on the beach. (If this movie is purposely being opened on the anniversary of the D-Day landings, it’s another crass Hollywood low.) In the confused terror of the battle, Cage is “killed” by one of the creatures (they look like tentacled crosses between flying rodents and octopuses), but wakes up back at base. And the rigamarole restarts. Repeatedly. Apparently he’s been transfused with vital fluid from the space monster and is unkillable and visionary (or something like that).

Eventually, he meets up with Rita (Emily Blunt), a war hero who used to have Cage’s visionary imperishability. Together they set out to stop the space invaders by finding and destroying their “Omega” leader using Cage’s super abilities.

There’s a whole lot more, much of it incomprehensible, except to idiot savants and those bluffers. It’s also boring. Liman’s handling of the big 3-D action sequences is mostly pedestrian, or jaggedly confusing like much of the rest of the movie. And in a minor-key objection, it should be said that the fiftyish Cruise is really too old for this role, despite some face-tightening treatments and his brand of brashly boyish acting. At his age, Cruise’s late pal, Paul Newman, was concentrating on more, not less, challenging roles.

Watch the trailer for Edge of Tomorrow

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