Watching Edge of Tomorrow is like playing a video game: You die, you start over. You get pissed off because the game is unfair, you hit reset. Either way you’re learning how to defeat the enemy as you go, hopefully learning from mistakes and incorporating the proper adjustments to succeed. Most importantly, the more you start over the more invested you become in the process, and the same can be said for the movie. Every time the day resets we become more engrossed in the story, more eager to see what detail will unfold next, more excited to see what other visual treats director Doug Liman (The Borne Identity) has in store.

The film is as exhilarating a thrill as one can have at the movies. Packed with action and suspense, it tells a well-developed story with fantastic visuals, timely humor, and great pace. All movies strive for this level of storytelling — only a precious few achieve it. The exposition perfectly sets the stage for what’s to come. Tom Cruise stars as Maj. William Cage, a media relations military officer who’s not trained for battle and hates the sight of blood. On the cusp of what’s expected to be the definitive fight against invading aliens, a.k.a. “mimics,” Gen. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) orders Cage to the frontline. Cage demurs, is knocked unconscious, and wakes up in London on the eve of battle. Stripped of his ranking, Cage meets Master Sgt. Farell (Bill Paxton), who has specific orders not to believe anything Cage says. As expected, Cage dies in battle.

Then, unexpectedly, he once again wakes up in London on the day before the battle, and finds himself reliving his last day. As he continues to be killed and revived, Cage slowly figures out how to save himself and defeat the invading aliens. Part of this includes learning to move in and use the robotic exoskeleton he’s been given for protection. A bigger, more important part is his relationship with super fighter Rita Vritaski (Emily Blunt, who handles the physically challenging role impressively), who understands what Cage is experiencing and has a plan to end the war. (Incidentally, during production Blunt had two ribs pop out, dislocated her thumb, and nearly broke her nose, which earned her a high five from Cruise for getting physical.)

Each time Liman jumps back to the beginning of the day it’s understandably repetitious, but it never gets tiresome. The director, along with writers Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, demonstrates great ingenuity in adding layers to the story piece by piece (or death by death), and in doing so the intrigue remains high throughout. Sometimes the “resets” play for laughs, sometimes for drama, but they always serve a purpose in moving the story forward with precision and clarity. Credit also goes to editor James Herbert for keeping things tight and never letting the complex story feel complex.

Visually, Edge of Tomorrow looks fabulous. The 3D is vivid and clear, superbly accentuating the third dimension to dynamically bring the screen to life. Though Cage’s first descent into the battle is breathtaking, the real highlights are the aliens, which perniciously spin, swirl, and stab with reckless abandon. Better, they’re a truly scary sight to see; they bring us something a bit different than a standard Martian. The fact that there’s not one disappointment along the way is a testament to all the creative talent doing their job exceptionally well.