The movie poster for “Edge of Tomorrow” quotes a phrase from an LA Times review, promising that this summer blockbuster will be “smart, exciting, and unexpected.” And it is.

Tom Cruise delivers a memorable performance in this sci-fi, futuristic thriller. Escape the summer doldrums and spend a couple of hours exploding aliens and figuring out a game plan to save the world.

Army officer Cage (Tom Cruise) doesn’t consider himself a “real soldier.” His main job has been as an advertising executive. He’s relatively certain that when he’s asked to report to alien-fighting headquarters, his job will be to create a public relations strategy for General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson).

The General has other ideas. He plans to implant Cage at the front, no matter that he’s untrained and unprepared. Cage begins by politely refusing the offer, then cajoles, then tries bribery, and finally blackmail. General Brigham doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and the next thing Cage knows, he’s waking up on the Heathrow tarmac in handcuffs.

Cruise buries any resemblance to his previous “Mission Impossible” heroes and plays the cowardly Cage in a manner that’s transformative. You’ll hardly recognize Tom.

Now Cage has no choice but to strap on the Iron Man body suit and fall into place. Given the personality of Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), the fact that he’s untrained and unprepared means nothing.

In a Normandy-like beach invasion, Cage and platoons of fellow soldiers find themselves overrun by the aliens. Massacre is imminent. In the mayhem, Cage encounters the bravest solider of them all, Rita (Emily Blunt), the “angel” of the army. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the skills to save her, but he does manage to kill a bigger than usual alien in the process.

Thus begins the loop. Cage finds himself in a time-warp, thanks to the control transferred to him by the dead alien. The day doesn’t end when he’s killed. It begins again with his awakening on the tarmac again and again.

As the loop doubles-back, he hones his skills. Progress is slow, but he moves a little farther into the future with each return. At one stage, he meets Rita before the beach battle, and she understands the alien time-transfer because she experienced it herself in an earlier battle. Now he has a partner.

They must find a way to revise history and save the world. The film’s subtle maneuverings and its complicated plot make this a multi-dimensional thriller. Hold on and keep up with the calendar.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.

Marilyn Robitaille has been writing movie reviews for the Empire Tribune since 1999.