If you’ve seen the theater trailers for Edge of Tomorrow you might have said, Groundhog Day and Source Code meets Starship Troopers, maybe a little Looker, Oblivion and War of the Worlds, and you’d be partially right. And if you saw the TV spot with Tom Cruise shooting out the sunroof of a speeding car… You might have decided to wait for it on cable… or Netflix… or Redbox… or a decent bootleg…

But you’d be missing out on the best genre movie this year, one of the best movies this year, period.


Earth has been invaded by aliens and Major William Cage, a PR flack for Earth’s United Defense Force, encourages people to join the fight against them. One day he’s told that he and a film crew will be put “on the beach,” at the front, tomorrow, for Earth’s final assault against the enemy. At first Cage politely declines the honor, then he declines not-so-politely—he has no combat training and for the sake of everyone—especially himself—he says he’s the last person you want in the next foxhole. But despite (or maybe because of) his protests, he finds himself “reassigned” to an infantry unit, dropped at the front—and dead within five minutes. But—

—He wakes up (but it wasn’t a dream!) and it’s the day before he died and everything’s the same except he remembers what’s going to happen next. And he dies again, a little further along, but he dies (again) nevertheless. On his third “awakening” he encounters war hero Rita Vrataski, the “Angel of Verdun.” (She’s also known as the “Full Metal Bitch.”) He eventually saves her life and she tells him that she has the same “ability” he has—and to find her next time he “wakes up.” And then she gets them both killed.

Edge of Tomorrow works well on a number of levels. It harkens back to the days when “an immersive experience” involved a book rather than bandwidth. We don’t just identify with Cage, we are Cage, telling ourselves we can save the day and we’re down with dying in the process but really knowing better. As the story progresses, we see Cage grow, from the person he was to the person he was capable of being, if he only had the chance.

He gets plenty of chances.

The script drops subtle hints about fate verses free will, chance verses destiny, the quantum nature of reality, topics for discussion on way home. Even the Hey, wait a minute— moments can be explained without having to suspend your disbelief to the point of flatlining. And it has enough explosions to satisfy your needs for loud noises (in context, that shooting-out-of-the sunroof thing is pretty cool) and it’s funny.

Edge of Tomorrow is more than just a good popcorn movie. It’s proof that a good story doesn’t have to be dumbed down to be entertaining.

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