I WON'T TRY to tell you that Edge of Tomorrow is like nothing you've seen before. Actually, it's like a lot of things you've seen before, particularly its incredibly familiar War of the Worlds/Independence Day alien-invaders backdrop. But Edge's kinda ingenious time-loop storytelling device owes less to Groundhog Day than it does to the childhood fantasy of a videogame's infinite lives. Here's Tom Cruise playing (of all things) a coward, stuck at the frontlines of a battle he's doomed to repeat again and again—he wakes up, alive and anew, each time one of the whip-tentacled aliens ferociously slaughters him.

The less said about Edge's plot—adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel All You Need Is Kill—the better. One of the movie's pleasures is the way the plot unfolds, then doubles back on itself. There are more than a few clunky bits, including an awkward MacGuffin and a final sequence that seems lazily tacked on by nervous Hollywood bigwigs. But otherwise, director Doug Liman's confident grip on the razor-sharp turnarounds and note-perfect editing makes this an exhilarating, breathless ride.

It's also really fucking funny, thanks to Bill Paxton's platoon sergeant, Noah Taylor's skittish scientist, and Cruise's surprising lack of vanity; when Cruise's character does become a hero, it feels legitimately earned. And Emily Blunt, as a celebrity soldier who knows a few of the aliens' secrets, is a total badass—only when Edge falters at the very end is she anything less than the kind of female protagonist that action movies desperately need more of. This is a fun, funny action movie with science-fiction smarts, deft satire, a nail-biter of a plot, and lots of cool explosions. If you see a better popcorn movie this summer, it's going to be a very good summer indeed.