Now that we’re in the thick of the summer movie season (yes, it’s only June), moviegoers might be experiencing a little fatigue– especially in the wallet. Action movie junkies who have doled out bucks to catch X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla, and/or The Amazing Spiderman 2 in recent weeks may decide to take a break this weekend, passing on the latest from Tom Cruise.

Big mistake.

Not only is Edge of Tomorrow the best of the bunch, it’s among the best of the year so far. It’s a true testament to what summer movies are all about: big action, big stunts, big effects, and big names– all put in a blender along with a wicked smart script. And anyone loathe to check out the latest from the actor whose last three films have an average 52% Rotten Tomatoes rating, well… Tom Cruise is back with his best performance since 2008’s Tropic Thunder.

Though it would certainly be easy to write off Edge of Tomorrow as “Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers”, don’t buy into it. Thanks to superb direction by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and an always-solid, often-hilarious (yes, I said “hilarious”) script by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and the Brothers Butterworth (Fair Game), Edge will surely stand out as one of the summer’s best, even if people (unwisely) pass on it.

Cruise stars as Major William Cage, a US Army PR flack who finds himself stuck on the front lines in the war against Mimics– frenzied, octopus-like invaders from outer space. Within minutes of storming the beach, though, he dies– only to wake up and find himself exactly where he was 24 hours earlier.

Helping him figure out just what the heck is going on is Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) an honest-to-goodness war hero. And so begins the “Live. Die. Repeat.” scenario touted in the film’s trailer. Remember how Bill Murray got really good at piano in Groundhog Day? Tom Cruise goes through the exact same thing– only he becomes a polished, battle-ready solider in a mission to end the war once and for all.

Those expecting yet another film where Cruise stars as a cocky know-it-all with a sly smirk will be pleasantly surprised. He’s actually at his best in Edge because his character is exactly the opposite. As a petrified, raw recruit, he shows a vulnerability and, frankly, even cowardice that is wholly refreshing. It’s Blunt, instead, who’s the real hero here; her steely demeanor (and steely abs) easily steals scenes from Cruise, and that’s no small feat. The whole movie is made that much better as a result.

The script expertly balances the terror of war (Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket both came quickly to mind as I watched Edge) and the sharp comedy that the repetition scenario provides. It’s a perfect blend that elevates the film far above standard summer fare.

4.5/5 stars