At first, Oblivion seems like a typical Tom Cruise movie: A brief shower scene to show off his pectorals, his cruising around in a fast vehicle, his wearing a baseball cap and showing he’s full of himself. But then it gets deeper.
photo by MTV Live
Jack (Tom Cruise) is a cocky pilot who flies around in his one-man craft as a maintenance man to flying drones. Why? Because the drones guard the incredible fusion machines that convert the Earth’s water into energy. Why? Because the entire rest of the human race has moved to Titan, and they’ll need the energy. Why? Because Earth was devastated by an alien attack, it was left mostly uninhabitable, and some of the surviving aliens attack the fusion machines on occasion—hence the need for Jack to zip around and maintain the drones. This is a standard post-apocalyptic setting, with unusually smooth special effects.
Jack lives with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), and they’ve both had their memories erased for no particular reason. However, Jack has hazy dreams of another woman who was meaningful to him.
At this point, Oblivion sounds like it’s derivative of Total Recall (see my review here). Can you guess that Jack will find this mysterious woman Julia (Olga Kurylenko)? But the way he finds her not only ratchets up the tension, it makes the tidy post-apocalyptic setting unexplainable. Jack has only two weeks left before the fusion machines close up shop and they can join the rest of humanity on Titan, but he needs answers to his erased memories and the nature of the world he has been protecting to its bitter end.
I can’t say that Oblivion is a great movie, but it became surprisingly deeper than what I expected (I only went to see it as a form of escapism after the real-life drama of the bombings in Boston). Yes, the character of Victoria could have been developed more, and yes, Julia could have expressed more curiosity about their situation, but I have to say that the movie works. Tom Cruise does a serviceable job as Jack, and the movie’s plot goes beyond action/adventure into the kind of concepts that earn it the moniker of science fiction.
So a soft recommend for Oblivion. If you want escapism, it fills the bill. If you just want a Tom Cruise movie, you’ll be stretched by the science fiction concepts. If you’re a science fiction fan, I can’t say your mind will be blown, but I think you’ll be entertained.