Edge of Tomorrow

Director: Doug Liman (2014)

This blistering sci-fi spectacular sees Tom Cruise destined to fight the same battle over and over again.

Exciting and intriguing, it flares up with a charismatic cast, ferocious action, dynamite design and maze-like plot.

An alien species called Mimics have conquered mainland Europe and are ready to strike at London. They’re whirling dervishes of tentacles and teeth.

On the eve of a major retaliatory attack, Major William Cage (Cruise) is accused of deserting, dumped on the frontline and then caught in an alien ambush.

The brilliantly staged battle is filmed in a palette of blues and greys which channel the authenticity of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) – any other colour generally means something or someone’s on fire. (Cinematography Dion Beebe).

Aided by the rhythm of the editing (James Herbert, Laura Jennings), humour pierces the action like shrapnel.

Cage is killed in action but is shocked when he awakes fully intact back on the parade ground, the day before the attack.

Stuck in a time-loop he has to continually fight and die, learning each day how to survive a little bit longer.

Unlike the similarly structured classic Groundhog Day (1993), there’s no moral solution to the problem.

When Cage meets the famously tough and beautifully buff sergeant Vrataski (an excelllent Emily Blunt), he discovers she has had a similar experience.

Vrataski has learnt the aliens are responsible for the time-loop and that by destroying their hive mind, humans can win the war.

The lack of romantic chemistry between Cruise and Blunt works in the films favour as they form an effective team.

Bill Paxton is hugely entertaining as the swaggering Sergeant Farrell. He relishes every on-screen moment and turns them to his scenery chewing, comic advantage.

Cruise brings his usual intensity but makes Cage likeable by gamely being the punchline of many jokes.

Which is just one of many great reasons to watch this movie again. And again.

Nightcrawler

Director: Dan Gilroy (2014)

Cut-throat and violent, the dark world of TV news is under the spotlight in this slick satirical thriller that is sharply written, wonderfully observed and terrifically performed.

With his gaunt face, sunken eyes, manic grin, lank-hair and soft-spoken measured delivery, Jake Gyllenhaal is mesmerisingly intense as a nightcrawler; a feral TV paparazzo prowling for the most bloody news footage.

Ambitious, articulate and cunning, loner Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a fervent believer in the American Dream.

Seeing opportunity everywhere he is permanently touting his (limited) skill-set and promoting his enthusiasm to any potential employer.

Inspired when he sees TV cameramen film police rescuing a woman from a car crash, he buys a camcorder and begins cruising the streets of Los Angeles at night, filming crimes to sell to TV.

His inexperienced enthusiasm leads to taking risks, falling foul of the law and his competitors such as the abrasive Joe Loder (Bill Paxton).

But he quickly learns to manipulate criminal events to further his career,

He sells his graphic footage to morally compromised, ageing and acerbic TV News chief Nina (a wonderful Rene Russo and real-life Mrs Dan Gilroy).

Nina’s show is struggling in the ratings and despite Lou being infatuated, exploits her perilous employment situation to secure a sweetheart deal for himself.

A driver Rick (Riz Ahmed) is employed on exploitative terms and provides the film with more black comedy; but he’s mostly a script device to give Lou someone to spout corporate career advice to.

Without any moral framework to guide him and driven by his love of the dollar, he has no compunction manipulating events even they spiral into violence and gunplay.

Bloom is a cartoon monstrosity and had he an ounce of doubt or remorse the drama would be improved. Instead he’s a one joke act lecturing us on the vicious amorality of capitalism. It is however, one hell of a joke.