(CNN) -- Tom Cruise's latest movie may be just the "Edge" the actor needs.
Since 2011's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" -- his last feature to cross the $100 million mark at the domestic box office -- the 51-year-old has had a spotty track record. The 2012 comedy "Rock of Ages" and the 2013 sci-fi drama "Oblivion" were both mildly received by audiences and film critics, while his 2012 outing as Lee Child's imposing Jack Reacher didn't fare much better.
But with Friday's "Edge of Tomorrow," critics are placing their bets on Cruise.
Directed by Doug Liman, "Edge of Tomorrow" stars Cruise as a military PR rep who finds himself thrown into a battle against an alien invasion. Cruise's character swiftly dies, only to find himself in a sort of time loop that causes him to come back to life.
Yet every time Cruise's Maj. William Cage returns to the land of the living, he is acquiring more skills to help him stay alive and potentially reach victory. The person helping him navigate the war zone is Emily Blunt's warrior-like soldier Rita Vrataski.
The plot might sound convoluted -- it's based on the Japanese novel "All You Need Is Kill," and has elicited more than one comparison to "Groundhog Day" -- but the movie has received largely positive reviews.
"Just when you were ready to give up on the summer season and its cookie-cutter, been-there blockbusters, 'Edge of Tomorrow' saves the day," raves the Los Angeles Times. "It's a star-driven mass-market entertainment that's smart, exciting and unexpected while not stinting on genre satisfactions."
Part of the movie's fresh appeal is its casting of Cruise as the guy who doesn't want to dive right into the action. As The New York Times' Manohla Dargis points out, we've become used to seeing Cruise walk on screen fully equipped as the grim action hero, and his "Edge of Tomorrow" role is essentially the antithesis of that.
"(W)atching him glide through the opening of 'Edge of Tomorrow' ... it's hard not to think, 'Where has this guy been?'" Dargis writes. "It's been years since Mr. Cruise felt this light on screen."
"A furiously time-looping joy ride, (it's) the smartest action film of the early summer season," Corliss says in his review. "The movie's only static element is its title, which oddly suggests a mashup of TV soap operas."
(Well, unless you count the tedium that can set in from watching Cruise "live, die and repeat" over and over again, as The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy warns.)
But, as any studio head can tell you, good buzz is just half the battle in building a summer blockbuster. And with heady competition from "The Fault In Our Stars," Variety's Brent Lang is predicting the teen romance will hold back "Edge of Tomorrow" at the box office.
If Cruise doesn't re-emerge as box office king, he can at least rest easy knowing he's won over several critics once again.
"(G)ive Cruise credit," says Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty. "Not only is he hard-headed enough to get right back on the horse that bucked him, but he manages to show us why he still matters as a movie star."