Cool if familiar space odyssey
While it doesn’t exactly break any new ground on its own, except perhaps for the stunning visuals by Chilean cinematographer Claudio Miranda (“Life of Pi”), “Oblivion” is a derivative sci-fi drama that blends some nifty plot twists with its mysteriously serene futuristic adventure. Oh, and it stars an actor you may have heard of named Tom (the $100 Million Man) Cruise, whose films rarely make less than our nickname for him would suggest.
As the last two people left on Earth in 2077 after an alien war forced the planet’s survivors to leave to live on one of Saturn’s moons, Jack Harper (Cruise) and wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough – mesmerizingly beautiful and smart) remain on assignment in what’s left of New York City. They are an “effective team,” with Jack performing drone maintenance while staying on the lookout for remnant alien enemies, while Victoria coordinates his duties from Tower 49, their highly modernized dwelling above the clouds. Checking in each day with the orbiting headquarters that gives them their mission objectives, they are a beautiful couple looking forward to their upcoming furlough. Among Jack and Victoria’s modern conveniences are a jet-powered helicopter, a folding space bike, and a see-through pool that would make any neighbor (if they had any) drool.
But trouble lurks. To reveal more would risk spoiling the twisty fun, but let’s say no matter the explanation, whenever your memory is wiped in a film, there’s more to the story than what you’re told. That, and whenever Morgan Freeman is cast, you know you are not the smartest character in the script.
For a big budget film, “Oblivion” shares a tranquil, mind-bending tone with excellent films by Steven Soderbergh and Duncan Jones (“Solaris” and “Moon” respectively), so those long periods of non-action (devoid of mindless, bloody killing) you experience are designed for audiences that don’t need to have constant frenetic noise (and mindless, bloody killing) to stay interested.
Good for the filmmakers then, especially director and co-writer Joe Kosinski (“Tron”), who fashion a perfectly acceptable science fiction suspense story that doesn’t quite fill in all the blanks but still makes sense. The ending will leave some audience members guessing, and even second guessing, but “Oblivion” won’t make the patient regret the adventure. Cruise’s subdued but winning performance here might win over a few detractors, even if he doesn’t exactly need them.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.