Earth’s been invaded by an alien race that’s suddenly stalled after nearly eradicating much of Europe. The commander leading the unified fighting forces, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), decides on an all-out attack aimed at wiping out the enemy before they can regain the upper hand. He calls on Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a celebrated marketing expert, to head to the front with a camera crew to record the triumphant push. Cage, lacking the courage and will to get that close, protests against the plan. Annoyed by this refusal, the General strips Cage of his rank, assigns him to a combat unit and sends him to Heathrow Airport where he’ll depart for the front the following day.
Once in battle, the enemy is ready for them. Entirely devoid of any real training, Cage is overwhelmed immediately. He manages to kill a single large alien and finds himself covered in its blood. Moments later, he’s dispatched by a second alien, but instead of dying, he inexplicably wakes up to find himself back at Heathrow preparing to once again disembark for the front. After repeating the cycle a few more times, Cage realizes he’s stuck in some sort of loop. During one cycle, he encounters the legendary Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who was instrumental in turning the tide of the war in the battle for Verdun. Together, they hatch a desperate plan to break the cycle and win the war.
There’s simply no way to avoid the obvious. This is a sci-fi action version of Groundhog Day. Cage not only relives the same day over and over again, but he follows the same stages leading up to acceptance that Bill Murray‘s Phil Connors experienced. The difference, of course, is that this landscape is far darker and deadlier than a snowy bed-and-breakfast community in western Pennsylvania.
This could have easily been a complete disaster of a film. The story takes forever to get set up, feels much longer than its running time and is filled with campy elements, implausible actions, quirky characters and worn-out clichés. It’s also one cop-out scene too long. For all its baggage, director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Go) manages to keep it all interesting. It bounces back with just the right mix of action, effects and well-timed comic relief. This is the definition of a popcorn movie. It’s not going to win any awards or set box office records, but it’ll keep you entertained throughout.