Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Alternate title: Live Die Repeat
USA/Australia, 2014. Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, Viz Media, Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit, Dune Entertainment. Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Cinematography by Dion Beebe. Produced by Jason Hoffs, Gregory Jacobs, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Erwin Stoff. Music by Christophe Beck. Production Design by Oliver Scholl. Costume Design by Kate Hawley. Film Editing by James Herbert, Laura Jennings. Las Vegas Film Critics 2014. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2014.
Tom Cruise hits paydirt for the first time in years with this smart, genuinely fun and surprisingly funny adventure film that puts Groundhog Day into a science-fiction future. He plays a member of the military who wears a uniform on television but, when interviewed by a general with a perpetually furrowed brow (Brendan Gleeson), it turns out he has never seen combat. The world is at war with alien invaders who are destroying human civilization, which means all able bodies will be needed at the front and, when he resists making his own ordered contribution, Cruise is arrested as a deserter and placed in a unit with other misfit recruits. Deposited on the battlefield, his fear and inability to handle himself in a fight get him killed very quickly but, instead of that being the end of the story, Cruise wakes up at the beginning of the day when he arrived at the battle location and relives the experience again. He dies over and over again, constantly regaining himself at the same spot of origin, completely unaware of how this is possible until an encounter with a courageous soldier (Emily Blunt) famous for her victory in a previous battle clues him in to the mystery. Smart editing that creates a sense of repetition in a smooth and intelligent manner, a witty script and terrific performances in the leads make for an outstanding, imaginative action film that reminds one of video games but with a sense of story and purpose emphasized. Cruise has become execrably unwatchable in the last few years for his evident desperation to retain the Cocky Young Man persona that made him famous thirty years ago, so having him portray near-cowardly hesitation to get his hands dirty is a refreshing change of pace, and likely the reason why he has sexual chemistry with an onscreen co-star for the first time since Val Kilmer. The effects are terrific and the experience is marred only by a tacked-on ending that makes little sense and panders to audience expectations for pat-happy resolution. Such a complaint is not painful enough to ruin the effect, however, which is otherwise a full-scale winner.