Directed by Doug Liman
Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor, Brendan Gleeson
After several attempts – the last was the odious Oblivion in 2013 – Tom Cruise has finally made a sci-fi movie worth watching more than once, which should please his fans. It’s also one in which he repeatedly dies in a variety of gruesome and entertaining ways, which should please his detractors.
Adapted from the Japanese YA novel, All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the film follows Cruise’s Major William Cage into battle against invading aliens called Mimics (for no good reason – they don’t mimic anything). The big conceit is that when Cage is killed in battle, he wakes up again a day before his death, enabling him to learn from his fatal mistakes.
This is handy, because Cage is not a combat soldier – he’s a slippery media relations officer sent to the front lines after ticking off a general (Brendan Gleeson). Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) is a soldier, though; an honest-to-god war hero, she trains the Cruiser in the ways of combat, popping a bullet in him when he screws up because she knows he’ll just step back in time. With the help of a standard issue kooky scientist played by recent Game Of Thrones alumni Noah Taylor, they aim to use our hero’s temporal-twisting ability to save the world.
Gamers will get a real sense of deja vu with this one – essentially it’s a narrative with a save point, with Cruise and co attempting to navigate a particularly hard Halo level over and over again. The repetition inherent in the premise never bores, though; although the situation never changes, Cage does, and watching how he adapts, transforming himself into an elite killing machine, is thoroughly entertaining. It’s also fun to see quintessential English rose Blunt as a hardened veteran who uses what appears to be a helicopter tail rotor blade as a melee weapon.
Director Doug Liman wears his influences on his sleeve – everything from Groundhog Day to Starship Troopers to Saving Private Ryan gets a look-in – but he keeps things moving along at a rapid pace and doesn’t give us time to dwell on the ramifications of the film’s time travel plot device (give it a week for the internet’s armchair quantum physicists to tear the film apart). Design-wise, the film is nothing special; we’re still living in the shadow of Aliens when it comes to big screen military science fiction and, speaking of aliens, the film’s invaders are yet another in the recent trend of dumb, ugly extraterrestrial designs in American SF cinema (see: Cowboys And Aliens, Super 8).
Still, these issues don’t derail the film – although the senseless dénouement may achieve that for some viewers. All up, this is a fast, fun, thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi actioner.