Movie review: Sci-fi action flick “Tomorrow” takes looping concept to edge

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From the June 5, 2014 edition

Downtown old-school-arcade-games-and-booze bar 16-Bit Bar+Arcade has provided me both nostalgia and a reminder of just how goddamn hard those games were. They were methodically designed to separate a boy and his quarters.

When you really appreciate that the games are on “free play” is when you’re playing one that sends you back to the beginning each time you die. What sort of existential nightmare is this, Q*bert?!

Which brings me to the plot of this summer’s Tom Cruise delivery vehicle, “Edge of Tomorrow,” in which Cruise’s character bears the same dilemma as our video game friends.

In a near-future world, humans find themselves in a bitter war with an invading alien race. Major William Cage (Cruise) is a military public relations officer without a lick of combat experience. But soon he finds himself thrust into a full-blown “beaches of Normandy”-style battle. Understandably, he is killed almost immediately.

But at the moment of his death, Cage wakes up in a moment from a day earlier. He finds himself stuck in a time loop, fighting and dying, over and over, just like Pac-Man.

“Edge of Tomorrow” — based on a Japanese novel with a way cooler name (“All You Need Is Kill”) — takes this “Starship Troopers” meets “Groundhog Day” premise and turns it into a rare summer movie that’s both smart and a crowd-pleaser. If you’re willing to roll with the punches, it’s great.

Director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Swingers”) manages to not only succinctly set up the twisty sci-fi premise, but also keep a movie based on repeating the same moments over and over from feeling too repetitive.

There are enough action set pieces to satiate that crowd — humans fight in mechanized suits, no less — but it’s the clever twists on the concept that really work. It’s not just another dumb summer flick, but it also won’t make your brain go all “Inception.”

A lot of people seem to bristle at Cruise these days, but he’s perfectly suited for this, especially for the unexpected humor. Add a kickass Emily Blunt as a female war hero.

I’m not so sure it will live up to over-and-over viewings, but it’s a super fun ride the first time around

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures