[Also referred to — inaccurately (even if it is in bigger type on the DVD cases and posters and advertised that way on Amazon) — by its tagline, Live, Die, Repeat]
Tom Cruise isn’t normally a star one associates with science fiction film, so it is remarkable, to say the least, that he made two truly excellent SF movies back to back (Making this one immediately after Oblivion, a film that is about as different from this one as any alien invasion film can be!).
The basic idea is simple here — a cowardly “talking head” media soldier gets dumped into combat and dies quickly — only to wake up again two days earlier and have to repeat those same events again.
And again. And again.
Now in our tagline age, I suppose someone might label this one “Groundhog Day meets Saving Private Ryan.” And there would be a certain justice to that as the scenes of the massive landing operation are compellingly real. Somehow, I find myself comparing it to the climactic battle in Avengers: Endgame which apparently took place in one of the less real parts of Uncanny Valley: this is a very real beach, with real dirt, real sand and real water. Even the CGI transports seem far more real than anything in Endgame.
This was actually based on a Japanese SF novel, and it comes with a complex plot that has a lot of clever SF details. I particularly love the “Jackets,” a classic powered combat exosuit, complete with lots of attached weapons. It is a testament to the skill of the actors in this film that one gets the impression that they are power enhanced, despite the fact that they are acting with 85 pounds of metal suit on their backs and another 125 pounds of weapons.
It is also impressive that the film does a surprisingly good job of transforming Tom Cruise’s character, from inept coward to hardened soldier determined to stop the aliens no matter how many times he has to get killed. This takes place gradually and organically. It never seems forced or rushed, and remains believable throughout.
This is yet another of the films where Emily Blunt took on a role that leaves her filthy, tired and battered most of the time. As I’ve noted before, she is one of the few actresses willing to risk taking on these hard and unglamorous roles.
But then, she’ll be around long after the Megan Yesterdays of this world are forgotten.
Sadly, this one didn’t do as well as Oblivion (which is even more of a shame when you remember that Tom hasn’t made a science fiction film since) — although it is at least as good (even if they are so very different). One suspects that the studio might have blamed the name as they have promoted the tagline “Live, Die and Repeat” so much that it is actually listed by that name by most retailers. They deny that this is actually a name change, but it comes awfully close. I suppose that it is at least better than the name of the original novel, All You Need is Kill.
However, whatever name you call it by, it is one of the better SF efforts of the Teens: dark, gritty and realistic, surprisingly smart, deftly written and it plays out with a bit of humor, a lot of surprises, and a near-perfect ending.
Fortunately, Tom does have a new SF film coming — he’s teamed up, once again, with Edge of Tomorrow‘s director, Doug Liman, for the upcoming Luna Park. I can’t say that the descriptions sound too promising, but then, that’s what I would have said about Edge of Tomorrow.
So maybe, with a little luck, Tom Cruise will have starred in three excellent SF films. You never know.
If it is half as good as this one it should be worth seeing.