Tom Cruise Gets in Touch With His Spineless Side in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

Mark Deming
Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise. Hero. Soldier. Thinker … Coward?

Cruise plays a big ol' scaredy-cat in the upcoming sci-fi epic "Edge of Tomorrow," we learned out of this year's Comic-Con. And while the megastar doesn't have a whole lot of experience playing men who run from a challenge, his colleagues say he's pretty good at it.

Cruise was at Con over the weekend along with "Tomorrow" director Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"), screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie ("Jack Reacher," "Jack The Giant Slayer"), and co-stars Emily Blunt ("Looper," "The Five-Year Engagement") and Bill Paxton ("Big Love," "2 Guns") to talk up the futuristic combat film — one that depicts time on a loop for its leading man.

Along with showing some footage from the picture in progress, Liman gave Cruise what sounded like a backhanded compliment: "Tom's character is an all-out coward. ... And Tom does an incredible coward. He's brilliant at being afraid."

Cruise has spent most of his movie career playing heroes, and you have to go back to his early days to see him play a guy struggling with his fears. Cruise was at ill ease when trying to get his parents's furniture back in "Risky Business." He also wasn't all that comfy when he was stranded in Tijuana in "Losin' It." But of those films were released in 1983, and in the past three decades Tom's gained plenty of confidence.

For Cruise, "Edge of Tomorrow" is a step back and then some.

The film (originally announced under the title "All You Need Is Kill") sounds like a butt-kicking sci-fi variation of "Groundhog Day," with Cruise playing a spin on Bill Murray's role. Cruise stars as Lt. Col. Bill Cage, a military PR man who is unexpectedly thrown into battle against invading aliens. Somehow Cage gets caught in a time loop, and finds himself living the same day over again as he struggles to win a fight he lost on his first try.

Cruise, who won over the Comic-Con crowd by going into Stacy Jaxx mode and singing "I Want To Know What Love Is" for the fans, offered his own take on the character. "Bill Cage is in the army, and he’s responsible for media relations," Cruise said. "He designed the recruiting campaign to bring people into this global conflict. He’s having an easy war, and has made his name off this campaign he created. And he ends up, though various mistakes he makes politically, in a combat exo-suit for the first time."

While the movie is full of action, it's also seasoned with comedy, and Paxton had lots to say about Cruise's funny side. "The movie has a perverse humor to it." Paxton said. "I’ve got an order that says [Cruise's character] is a deserter who has been impersonating an officer, and the whole platoon is against him. Watching him getting into the [armored] suit for the first time is like something out of a Woody Allen movie."

Getting big laughs doing physical comedy while playing a coward? Don't say Tom Cruise doesn't know how to get out of his comfort zone every once in a while, which is a pretty brave thing to do.

"Edge of Tomorrow" opens in theaters in June, 2014.