Last Thursday, Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance at Showplace ICON theaters for a preview screening of his latest blockbuster, Edge of Tomorrow. When a huge star like that walks into a theater full of fans, there's a sort of convulsion as people shriek and leap to their feet; it's pretty exciting even if you don't share in the hysteria. Cruise gave a little spiel for the movie, posed for a photograph with the whole audience standing behind him, and soon split. He did make one interesting comment before he left, noting that he loves movies so much he watches one every day. That couch-jumping enthusiasm is the reason people still like Cruise, even after three decades in the spotlight have turned him into a rather eccentric character.
Few stars of his caliber have been treated with such condescension in the press, yet a quick scan of Cruise's filmography turns up plenty of great performances: as the cynical con artist in Rain Man (1988), the sexually restless married man in Eyes Wide Shut (1999), the cock-strutting motivational speaker in Magnolia (1999), the ice-cold hit man in Collateral (2004). Check out the already forgotten political drama Lions for Lambs (2007) if you want to see Cruise, playing a smooth Republican senator, steal a movie from Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. And what other handsome leading man has taken on more batshit-weird roles, from the vulgar movie executive in Tropic Thunder (2008) to the conflicted Nazi colonel in Valkyrie (2008) to the vain hair-metal god in Rock of Ages (2012)?
Cruise's bread and butter, though, has always been the big summer movie, and Edge of Tomorrow is his second sci-fi adventure in a row, following last summer's Oblivion. After a meteor hits Germany, Europe is overrun by giant beasts that look like a cross between an octopus and a bramble bush, and Cruise plays a military press attache forced into combat as British and U.S. forces stage a sort of Normandy landing in France. "What day is it?" he asks his commanding officer. "For you, Judgment Day," the officer cracks. On the contrary, it's actually Groundhog Day: when Cruise is killed in action, he goes into a time loop and relives the same day over and over again until he and Emily Blunt, playing a millennial Joan of Arc called "the Angel of Verdun," can find a route to victory against the aliens.
Time-travel movies are almost a genre unto themselves, and this particular gimmick of incessantly reliving the same day has already been incorporated into one thriller, the much superior Source Code (2011). Edge of Tomorrow is a decent time waster, but if you're the sort of person who watches a movie every day, you should probably look for something better. I would hate to get caught in a loop and have to watch this thing a hundred times.