Tom Cruise continues to show us he isn’t getting old by strapping on a gun-totting exoskeleton to blast some aliens. But luckily for him his co-star is excellent and the film’s implementation is entertaining.
In our very near future aliens arrive via meteor shower. Before long the entirety of greater Europe has been reduced to an infested wasteland. The military of all major countries amass around the borders and attempt to push the expanding tide back with state of the art weaponry. Cruise plays William Cage, a military spokesperson who is drafted against his will, only to get himself killed in the final battle. However, through unknown means he finds himself reliving the day, again and again, each time he dies.
This sort of thing has been done before, from Source Code to Star Trek television episodes, the hero trapped in a time loop offers an affordable bit of entertainment with the reuse of sets and even dialogue. Luckily, I’m a sucker for this sort of story.
Think Groundhog Day mixed with the visuals from the battle for Zion in Matrix Revolutions. Based off a Japanese graphic novel called “All You Need is Kill” (originally the film’s title until it was changed to suit wider audience appeal… sigh…) the film starts out with contemporary settings and a very un-Cruise like Tom Cruise. His character is a downright coward, and we see him trying to shrink and squirm his way out of army recruitment. This was a great way to start as it proves that maybe this film will be unique.
Then you have a literal montage of Cruise dying… a lot! As is the film’s gimmick; Cruise must learn (and in turn inform the audience) about the mysterious alien invaders through the only way he can: by fighting through a hopeless battle over and over again.
He finds help through Emily Blunt’s character Rita, a veteran in this future war and quite probably veteran show stealer. Certainly Cruise’s continual deaths are the funniest thing he’s done in a long time (take that as sadistically as you want!) Blunt’s grim reality is a great foil for him, especially when she must… instigate his day’s repetition.
It does have some cliche of course. The unit that Cruise’s character is settled with could be replaced by the Saratoga’s marines from Aliens, and I’ve already mentioned how the entire premise has been done before. The way the story naturally develops does mean that our lead hero becomes more and more Tom Cruise-like too. It is perplexing, but the more interesting character is seen to be slowly replaced by the all too familiar film star. It also has a terrible ending that reeks of massive cop-out. Far from the worst I have seen but certainly up there, a very unsatisfying end after everything that had happened.
The action is also far too frenetic. Coupled with the aliens appearance being very, very fast and covered in tendrils, it is incredibly difficult to see what is going on! I only saw this in 2D but I am grateful for it… this mess would induce a headache in 3D.
But, it proved good entertainment and as a sci-fi fan I enjoyed it. I laughed a lot more than I expected to and I would consider it well above average.