Tom Cruise stars in a sci-fi tale of duplicity and deception in “Oblivion”. As a drone tech stationed on the ruined Earth, he slowly comes to discover that all is not as it seems with his assignment.
The resulting tale is one of sci-fi drama and intrigue, mixed with occasional bursts of action. It’s an enjoyable, though not entirely original, science fiction movie.
In the year 2077, Earth has been decimated by a nuclear holocaust committed in self-defense. An invading alien race that humanity tagged “The Scavengers” destroyed the moon, forcing a cataclysmic disaster. When the “scavs” landed, the world unleashed their nuclear arsenals, destroying them, but also destroying the planet. Humans abandoned Earth and headed for one of Jupiter’s moons.
The story focuses on Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a technician stationed on the now desolate Earth in order to keep the war drones that protect the towers that harvest sea water functioning. Sea water is being used for energy on Titan, and the towers which harvest the oceans are targets for the remaining scavs which survived the war. So Jack and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) monitor and repair the drones in order to keep the towers protected.
At least that’s what Jack believes. As part of his assignment to Earth, his memory was “wiped”. Now, as he explores his zone of responsibility, he begins to question what’s really going on. When a spacecraft crashes and Jack witnesses the drones destroying the cryosleeping survivors, Jack realizes that something is drastically different from what he’s been told. When he’s able to save a sleep pod from being shot by the drones, and the woman within (Olga Kurylenko) turns out to be a woman he’s dreamed of, Jack’s entire world view is thrown into question.
Once the leader of the scavs (Morgan Freeman) reveals himself shortly thereafter, nothing will be the same for Jack again.
“Oblivion” is a sci-fi tale that borrows heavily from several other movies within the genre. I recognized shots that pay homage to “Star Wars”, “The Matrix”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Wall-E”, “Planet of the Apes”, hell, I even recognized a moment from “Waterworld”. I’m sure there were more. The story itself has highly derivative elements, as well, though I’m loathe to reveal the film it reminded me the most of for fear of spoilers.
The main issue, for me, surrounding “Oblivion”, though, is that it revolves too heavily on the process of revealing the truth of what’s happening on the planet earth. It can’t be confused with an action movie, there’s not enough action (not to say there isn’t any). It’s more of a sci-fi mystery film. Regrettably, the “payoff” doesn’t pack enough punch to elevate the movie into the ranks of great sci-fi films. Even if the trailers hadn’t essentially spoiled the fact that Jack is on the wrong side of things, I think any intelligent viewer would have quickly discerned that for themselves, and many will make an educated guess as to what the “secret” really is.
Which isn’t to say that “Oblivion” isn’t entertaining. It is. It’s slickly produced and visually impressive. The glossy white, glass enclosed vessels and living quarters of the team contrast nicely with the dirty, dark, dank living conditions of the “scavs”. The action is light, but well done when it comes round. And of course, with a cast like this, the acting is top rate. Freeman doesn’t have the largest role ever, but Tom Cruise gamely gives it all he’s got. Andrea Riseborough was excellent as his teammate Victoria, as well. This was the first I’ve seen of her, and I thought she gave a memorable turn.
“Oblivion” was an entertaining piece of popcorn sci-fi. Nothing that will rise to the ranks of the genre’s best, but not a completely disposable effort either. It’s visually striking, well acted and entertaining, but lacks the originality and memorable storyline for me to call it great.