Who’s in it: Tom Cruise (Jack), Andrea Riseborough (Victoria), Olga Kurylenko (Julia), Morgan Freeman (Malcolm), Melissa Leo (Sally), and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Sykes)
What’s it about? Hmm. Let me see if I can even attempt to sum this up: it’s the year 2077, and Earth has been pretty much decimated from a war with aliens (“Scavs,” short for Scavengers) who destroyed our moon sixty years earlier, throwing the planet into chaos. Mankind has resettled on one of Saturn’s moons (Titan), but Jack and Victoria are part of a small group of technicians who remained behind to help protect large generator-thingies that are sucking up the remaining water supply (presumably to send over to the humans on Titan). Or something like that.
The technicians have all had their memory wiped. Why this happened is unclear. They report to and check in constantly throughout the day via video chat with Sally, a commander from Mission Control. Sally helps them figure out how to get the mechanical drones who patrol their sector for Scavs functioning again whenever one of them is downed by the enemy or otherwise has technical problems.
Jack and Victoria are a mere two weeks away from the end of their mission (isn’t that always when things go haywire?) when a capsule containing Julia and other humans crash-lands onto Earth. Victoria — the ultimate rule-follower — thinks that Julia’s arrival on the scene is going to screw up their plans to leave. What Victoria doesn’t know is that Jack has been unnerved by recent flashbacks in which he’s on the Observatory Deck of the Empire State Building… with Julia.
Jack wants to get to the bottom of the capsule’s crash (and his foggy memories of Julia) before saying goodbye to his planet for good. See, he’s been spending some of his free time in a secret hideaway filled with earthly knickknacks (old-school records! Top Gun-like aviator shades!) and isn’t so keen on leaving.
BUT THEN Jack and Julia are captured by a group of resistance fighters that Jack didn’t even know existed. Their leader, Malcolm, wants Jack to help him destroy Mission Control, because (he says) those guys are the real villains. What will Jack do?
What’s good? All of the sci-fi elements are straight-up cool. The hellbent-on-destruction drones are especially impressive, as is Jack’s personal flight-craft he whizzes around in. The sweeping landscapes of Earth’s wasteland areas were also well done, though they depressed me at the same time. Cruise was strong as the lead, though I was even more intrigued by Riseborough’s performance as his toe-the-line partner and lover. Plus: Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister!
What could’ve been better? I think producer/director/co-screenwriter Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) could’ve done without the complicated voiceover at the beginning that sets up everything I tried to make intelligible earlier. I was seriously like, “What in the heck did he just say? I’m too tired to process this.” All of the same information is either repeated and clarified later by characters’ dialogue and actions, or could’ve been inferred by the audience. Now, not all of that dialogue is the smoothest, either, so I guess what I’m saying is that there must have been a better way to communicate the “how we got to this point” details.
The bottom line: If you like sci-fi films and/or post-Apocalyptic stories, Oblivion is different enough from the typical “aliens attack!” movies to be worthy of your attention. The cast’s performances are excellent, the M83 electronica score is unique and fitting (if overbearing in parts), and there are a few twists I didn’t see coming. I just wish the storytelling wasn’t quite so clunky at times.
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