Tom Cruise in the Superior “Edge Of Tomorrow”.

Cruise control.

Cruise control.

Tom Cruise, in a one day to save the universe, alien invasion, CGI saturated, 3D extravaganza blockbuster. I was really looking forward to stamping all over this, and kicking it unceremoniously about the place. But lo and behold, it’s actually rather good.

When we first meet Cruise as William Cage, he’s nominally a Major in the US army. In reality though, he’s just their spin doctor. A soulless PR guru who takes great pride in his ability to judge a book by its cover without ever having to actually read it.

That Cruise should make his character so initially unlikable is, as the saying goes, a smart move. And whilst you’re never in any doubt that by the end of the film, he’ll have been transformed into the kind of hero that saving the universe demands, it’s a clever way to begin a conventional blockbuster.

Basically, the less you know about this in advance, the more you’re likely to enjoy it. So you should probably try to avoid watching the trailer, as, as usual, practically all of the plot is given away in it.

Emily Blunt on the edge.

Emily Blunt in “Edge Of Tomorrow”.

Edge Of Tomorrow is essentially Groundhog Day meets Jurassic Park via Alien. But in a good way. Like all half decent science fiction, it is less concerned with the future than it is with the present. And Einstein’s famous line, that while he didn’t know about world war 3, but world war 4 would be fought with sticks and stones very much hangs over the film. So most of its battle sequences take place on Normandy Beach, so pivotal in the 2nd WW, and Emily Blunt plays the heroic Angel of Verdun, a key battle in the 1st.

Blunt by the way, who is every bit as impressive as her illustrious co-star, told the Daily Telegraph in 2005 that she’d rather spend her life doing poorly paid theatre than end up playing a spear carrier opposite Tom Cruise! Ah, God bless the Internet.

This is a surprisingly smart, consistently thrilling ride. It’s a long way from being in any way terribly memorable, never mind good. But compared to the kind of brainless dross peopled by one dimensional cardboard cut-outs that passes for most conventional blockbusters, this is positively a breath of fresh air. And there are a couple of nice touches too.

Brendan Gleeson.

Brendan Gleeson.

At one point, Brendan Gleeson has the line “Russian and Chinese troops are making their way across Europe, unopposed.” The joke is, he says it not in fear, but with huge relief! Though quite how the joke will play if you’re watching the film in, say Ukraine, or Poland I’m not so sure.

The whole thing hinges on a) how seriously its stars are prepared to take a story like this. After all, if nobody on screen treats the threat as credible, why should we? And b) whether or not there’s any on-screen chemistry between the two leads. Happily, Cruise and Blunt deliver on both counts. And the director Doug Liman provides the sort of energy that gave the Bourne films such vitality, directing the first, and producing two and three.

Not a masterpiece then by any stretch of the imagination. But a decidedly superior way to enjoy an oversized bag of popcorn.

You can see the trailer (if you insist) here.

This review also appears on here, which you should read almost as avidly as you do this.

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