Tom Cruise as Jack
Morgan Freeman as Beech
Olga Kurylenko as Julia
Andrea Riseborough as Victoria
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Sykes
Melissa Leo as Sally
Zoe Bell as Kara
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
While “Oblivion” is a blend of a lot of familiar sci-fi ideas, the end result is still enjoyable thanks to the performance of Tom Cruise, a script with some heart, and impressive production design.
In the year 2077, the Earth has just fought a costly war against the alien “Scavs.” While the humans won, they did so at a price. The moon was destroyed and the imbalance caused the planet to be destroyed by earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters. Now mankind has decided to abandon the Earth and settle on one of Saturn’s moons. They plan to get there on a massive starship called the Tetrahedron. The surviving humans are also taking as much water as they can from the planet to power fusion reactors.
On the surface of the Earth, Jack and Victoria are acting as a skeleton maintenance crew for drones protecting the water collection operations. The drones pick off remaining Scavs left behind from the war that cause problems. While Jack is good at his job, he feels wrong abandoning the Earth. He’s also plagued by dreams of a life he has no recollection of. But as Jack and Victoria spend their last days on Earth, Jack is about to discover that his past has been a complete lie.
“Oblivion” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.
“Oblivion” doesn’t really do anything new in the world of sc-fi. We’ve seen most of it done before in other films. “Oblivion” seems to approach the sci-fi buffet and take a little bit of everything. There’s a bit of “Wall-E.” There’s a little of “The Matrix.” There’s some of “Total Recall.” Then there are dashes of everything from “Independence Day” to “Terminator Salvation” to “The Day After Tomorrow.” They’re all then thrown into the blender together and you get “Oblivion.” And while that sounds like a pretty terrible thing, it actually works fairly well for “Oblivion.” There are several reasons why.
First of all, Tom Cruise sells it well. It’s by no means one of his best performances, but you believe him as this planetary janitor who is left to mop up after the apocalypse. He hops in his fancy spaceship and jets around Earth like a 9 to 5 commuter. He serves as tech support not for a bunch of aging PC’s, but for killer drones. He comes home to a loving wife in a house that looks like it was designed by Apple. He’s an everyman that we can identify with even though he’s from the future. So when the story starts taking twists and turns, we’re invested in him. Cruise is also well paired with Olga Kurylenko as Julia and Andrea Riseborough as Victoria. These are step-out roles for both of them and they make the best of it.
While “Oblivion” serves a familiar sci-fi dish, it is still pretty cool in its own right. We have some spectacular aerial sequences where Jack battles the drones. You’d think the drones were designed by Skynet as intimidating and lethal as they are. We have some impressive post-apocalyptic environments featuring buried cities, a shattered moon, and drained seas. And then Jack’s aforementioned house in the sky is quite cool (although I’d hate to see their Windex bill). It’s just overall a treat to look at.
But the final reason it works is that the script has some heart as well as some surprises. There’s an awkward love triangle between Jack, Victoria, and Julia. Then there are a couple of twists regarding Jack’s past that I didn’t see coming. I can’t discuss them in more detail without spoiling the film, but it was enough to keep me engaged in the story and characters.
What Didn’t Work:
While borrowing sci-fi elements from other films is forgivable, “Oblivion” does have a lot of plot points that are very easy to pick apart. Why send a lone man with a rifle into a hostile environment when you could send an army? Why have only a few small drones protecting such a critical operation when you should have hundreds of them? Why take water from the Earth when other planets have ice or water as well? The list goes on and on (especially in the realm of spoilers). You eventually just have to tell your brain to shut up and enjoy the movie. That may be enough for many people, but it’s going to be a serious hang-up for others.
“Oblivion” also has some pacing issues. While it’s initially cool to see Cruise flying around a post-apocalyptic environment fixing drones, it starts getting old. Things don’t really start kicking into gear until nearly an hour into the film. All of those early scenes serve a purpose, but you could tell “Oblivion” was losing the audience as they dragged on.
The film is also PG-13, but it teeters on the edge of an R thanks to a couple of gratuitous scenes. There are some bare butt shots of Victoria that don’t serve the character or the plot. Then Cruise is allowed to utter their one PG-13 allotted “f**k” late in the film. While Kosinski was obviously trying to add some edge to this movie, all it did was make me decide I shouldn’t return to the theater on opening day to buy a ticket and allow my 10 year old to see it. From a business perspective, I think it may have lost them some business.
The Bottom Line:
“Oblivion” is a good primer for the upcoming summer blockbusters. If you’re into sci-fi, it’s worthwhile checking out in theaters, and especially on an IMAX screen.