By Dan Aquino
Directed By: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough
Oblivion takes place in the distant future where Earth was invaded by an alien race known as the “Skavs.” Tom Cruise narrates as we are shown the fallout from the war, telling the audience that we had won, but had to nuke everything in order to win it. He then goes on to explain that he and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the only two left on Earth and are tasked with protecting these giant turbines that create power for the rest of the human race that is waiting on a space station to go to Titan, one of the moons orbiting Saturn. What unfolds is a not the Sci-Fi action thriller that I, or many others probably expected, but rather a top notch Sci-Fi mystery.
Cruise plays Jack Harper, a mechanic whose job is to repair damaged drones who act as the primary defense against the Skavs that are leftover from the war. During a routine seek and repair mission, Jack comes across something that makes him question his job and everything that has brought him to where he is today. He runs into a group of what he believes to be Skavs and finds out that he and his partner are not who they think they are, and this takes Harper to places he never thought he could possibly go. He embarks on a dangerous mission to discover what really happened after the war and to find out who he really is.
Although the cast of Oblivion is relatively small, Cruise and Riseborough do a tremendous job of keeping the movie interesting. You can tell that there’s something that isn’t right with their relationship, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. There are stark contrasts between the two of them with Cruise feeling reluctant to leave Earth and Riseborough eager to rejoin the remaining survivors on the space station Titan. Cruise still sees hope for Earth, frequently taking trips to a remote cabin he builds for himself and collecting random objects from pieces of his memory that he still has. Riseborough sticks solely to her mission and often frowns upon her partners’ cowboy attitude. The supporting cast also does an excellent job in adding to the suspense of the movie, with each member bringing something to the table for Cruise to work with. Kurylenko and Freemen both acting as catalysts for Cruise to go and discover his true existence work perfectly and they play off each other very well. Cruise even has a relationship with a bobble-head that he puts on the dashboard of his aircraft, acting like Wilson from Cast Away.
Some of the best parts of Oblivion stem from the special effects, which are as you would expect, numerous in a Sci-Fi movie. Cruise flying over the wasted terrain of Earth gives the audience a constant reminder of the destruction left over by the war as we see great cities laid to waste and miles and miles of desert where there was once civilization. Some of the best effects are used on the defense drones, which deserve their own credit as supporting characters, and act as the antagonist throughout most of the film. Cruise has his own relationship with these deadly machines, sometimes bordering on comedic relief when they aren’t chasing him through the apocalyptic wasteland. Special effects geeks won’t be disappointed by the sights and action sequences that take place in the world of Oblivion.
Oblivion could easily have fallen into the post-apocalyptic action movie that most thought it was going to be, but it comes out as something fun and original. Its strength doesn’t lie in violence or Sci-Fi exploration, but mostly on character development and drama. Overall Cruise does a wonderful job in keeping the story line moving and the plot fresh. And while there may not be an overabundance of action, the characters are interesting, the special effects are impressive, and the story is fun and captivating. It may not be the greatest Sci-Fi flick to have come out in recent years, but it does its best to add something new to the genre, and for that I give it credit.