I don’t know about you but I have always had a pretty easy time separating Tom Cruise’s off-screen “goings on” from his on-screen career. The man is a giant on the Hollywood acting landscape and whether it’s in something as profound as Magnolia or obscure as Jack Reacher, he NEVER half-asses it when it comes to his performance in a movie. So when I saw the trailer for Oblivion my expectations were immediately high.
[Editor’s. Note: Cut to DivaJulia rolling her eyes in the back of her skull about Tom Cruise. It had to be said. Sorry to butt in, David.]
The movie takes place in 2077, 60 years after humanity went to war against an alien race that destroyed the moon. Humanity won by deploying all its nukes but as a result the majority of the planet was rendered uninhabitable due to radiation. With thoughts that the earth was done for humanity created an orbiting space station called the “Tet”. The Tet serves as a way station between earth and earth’s new colony on Titan the largest moon orbiting Saturn.
Jack (Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are a two-person team that has been left on earth to oversee a series of gigantic machines designed to convert the earth’s sea water into fresh water that is then sent off to the Tet, then to the colonist. Their jobs are simple, Jack is sent out to do repairs on any of the Tet’s broken drones. Drones that are constantly surveying the inhabitable parts of the earth and are programmed to kill any remaining alien life which may jeopardize the sea water project. Victoria’s job is to monitor him from a highly sophisticated terminal in their living quarters and send word of the project’s progress or request help from the Tet. The pair are only two weeks away from completing their task and joining the rest of humanity on Titan when Jack has a series of drone repairs that go less than smoothly.
Still with me? Yes? Good, because Cruise tells you all of that in voice-over in the first 10 minutes of the movie but (SPOILER ALERT) by the end of this movie, you’ll learn that only the FIRST sentence of the previous paragraph is actually what has happened… So, yeah, you’ll need your brain in the “On” position for this one.
The cast for this movie is basically 5 people, 6 I guess if you count “Sally” played by Melissa Leo, but really, Cruise is the centerpiece of this film and delivers, as usual. I liked Andrea Riseborough’s performance but her character takes a turn later in the film that doesn’t really jive with me when you consider the ahem… “cozy” relationship that she and Cruise’s character have on the station.
Morgan Freeman’s character “Beech” and Nikolaj-Coster Waldau’s “Sykes” are flat and one-note although hearing Freeman’s dialogue is always awesome. I swear, that man could narrate me getting mugged and I’d consider it an honor. Olga Kuryenko is the only other person doing any heavy lifting in this movie. Her character “Julia” has a lot to do with the story’s twists and turns and she does her part quite well.
The basic plot of this movie is simple really, but the story that’s actually told in Oblivion is so convoluted that if it didn’t give you timely bits and pieces of whats really happening via flashbacks, you could easily get frustrated. Instead, the movie uses every bit of it’s 2 hour, 6 minute run time to explain it all to you and frankly, for me anyway probably could have used another 5 or 10 to do so. Fortunately the pace moves along quick enough, the actors act well enough, and the visuals of a post apocalyptic earth were good enough to where I wasn’t checking my watch. The only thing that I was disappointed with was its lack of action. Don’t get me wrong, there were action scenes in Oblivion, but clearly it’s not supposed to be an action movie and I guess i’m left wishing it was?
All in all, Oblivion is an above-average sci-fi film that does deserve your time IF you are willing to be patient and puzzle it all out along with the main character.