Tom Cruise's latest is the best videogame movie not actually based on a videogame, writes reviewer Russell Baillie

This largely terrific curveball of a Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick was originally called All You Need is Kill, after the Japanese graphic novel it was based on.

That it's ended up sounding like a Celine Dion album title and perfume tie-in might indicate whoever paid for it is nervous about how it will be received.

Audiences have proved increasingly resistant to Cruise's leading man appeal - especially in the US where his last two action-man roles in Oblivion (last year's middling post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure) and Jack Reacher have failed to crack the US$100 million mark.

But if the title got lost in translation, its intriguing plot engine about a combatant who dies fighting an alien invasion, only to be resurrected to fight and die again and again has been turned into something of a miracle.

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Firstly, it's a Tom Cruise action flick you don't have to like Cruise to like. He's not even the top gun here.

That's Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski, the Joan of Arc-like poster girl for the Nato-like "United Defence Force" fighting aliens which have occupied Europe and now threaten the rest of the planet.

Though Cruise is allowed by director Doug Liman - here displaying a return to the form he had in the days of the first Bourne movie and Mr and Mrs Smith - to do a few trademark Cruise things.

Like ride a nice motorcycle fast through London.

Like attempt to generate some chemistry with Blunt, the latest in his conveyor belt of English leading ladies. It nearly works.

Blunt, though is great, as the warrior woman who must both mentor Cruise, then ride shotgun with him all the way to an ending that isn't quite as smart as what has preceded it

But mostly, Edge of Tomorrow is a big-gun action flick with a big-brain. One that works on a different sort of game theory - just like a videogame it reboots back to the start every time Cruise's character is killed, but he learns from his mistakes and muscle memory.

Just like a videogame it drops heavily-armed untrained amateurs into warzones -- Cruise and his comrades are driving stomping weaponized exoskeletons - who must conquer stages to progress.

Just like videogames the movie's own monsters from outer space -- "a perfectly evolved world- conquering organism" according to the film's resident boffin -- have a ranking system. You have to kill a bunch of the nasty little ones -- think a mad mechanical burrowing anemone -- to get to an important one.

All of which makes this the best videogame movie not actually based on a video game.

It's also futuristic war film with a slight sense of history - its battle scenes on the beaches of Normandy suggest Private Ryan having joined Starship Troopers.
Yes, releasing the movie on the week that marks the 70th anniversary of WWII's Operation Overlord feels pretty cynical.

But Groundhog D-Day in the near future it is, with nods to The Matrix and Alien too.

Its component parts may not be original. But the way Liman has bolted it all together, fuelled by a smart script, turbocharged by deft editing and then driven by its two leads all makes EoT an exceptional thrill ride that is way smarter than anything Cruise has done before in this territory.

It helps that he at least starts out playing against type - his Major Bill Cage is a military PR man helping recruitment in the war against the aliens so he can avoid the frontline himself.

His big mouth and cowardice gets him demoted to grunt on the eve of the UDF D-Day. He's dropped on to the beach. Game Over.

Cue the start of his seemingly never-ending suicide missions -- once he realises that his longest day will only ever end if he figures out how to play the game right to the end.

How Liman and Cruise deliver the repeated set-up scenes gives EoT plenty of light relief from warzone mayhem, the leading man's charms working a treat as he tries to convince those around him that he's seen it all before.

Funnily enough, the movie he's in doesn't make the audience feel like we have.

Cast:

Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

Director:

Doug Liman

Rating:

M (violence and offensive language) Running time: 113 mins

Verdict

: Cruise's best film in a long time