Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“I’ve been watching you, Jack. You’re curious. What are you looking for in those old books? Do they bring back old memories?,” asks Beech (Morgan Freeman), a mysterious leader of what appears to be a large group of human survivors on an Earth that’s supposed to be vacant of all human life except for Jack (Tom Cruise) – an engineer maintaining drones – in the science fiction, mystery, adventure film, Oblivion.
The year is 2077 and it’s been 60 years since Earth was attacked by an alien race called the Scavs. Half of the Earth was destroyed, but mankind won the war. Everyone was evacuated and only Jack and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) remain for drone maintenance. They are the mop-up crew. When Jack goes and checks on a crashed spacecraft that’s supposedly part of the Scavs, he is shocked to discover five humans in hyper-sleep and one looking amazingly like the young woman who haunts his dreams at night. Jack reports back what he’s found but when the drones arrive, they begin killing the five sleeping humans. Jack is finally able to get the drones to stand down, saving only one of the humans – the girl, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), who he takes back to base.
Once awake, Julia is determined to get back to the wreckage and find the black box recording to find out what happened. The shocking thing about Julia is that she knows Jack’s name and keeps looking at him with both concern and attraction. This causes great jealousy for Victoria who only wants to finish her job and leave Earth with Jack to where all the other humans evacuated to: Titan. When Jack and Julia go back to the wreckage, they are attacked by Scavs and taken down into the underground. However, once there Jack meets Beech and discovers the supposed Scavs are really hiding humans. Not knowing what to believe and with Beech telling him he’s been lied to by his employers, Jack goes on a search to find the truth about what really happened 60 years ago and who really is in the big space station above Earth calling the shots.
Visually breathtaking, Oblivion is a science fiction/mystery with a strong cast but sadly an all too familiar script. Tom Cruise is solid as Jack, the planet’s last engineer who’s haunted by dreams and memories of his old life which is trying to help him unlock the secrets of what really happened to Earth and the Scavs. Andrea Riseborough is very effective as Victoria, Jack’s partner both professionally and personally. Her goals are simple: do a good job, follow protocol, and keep her man, Jack, with her at night. But when Julia arrives and Jack’s yearning for learning the truth begins to threaten everything Victoria holds dear, Andrea does a great job of showing her fear and heartbreak. It’s unfortunate that Morgan Freeman is underutilized in his role as Beech, a character very reminiscent of Morpheus in the Matrix films. He only has a few scenes and the audience will hardly be able to see him due to his character constantly hiding in the dark. It’s a waste of a great actor.
The film looks fantastic with its production value. The special effects are top-notch. Especially impressive is the flying bubbleship Jack uses to do his job over Earth and the look of a half-dead planet. Filmed in IMAX, there’s a great feel and look to all of the flying scenes. So, given how great Oblivion looks, it’s really a shame the plot is a mishmash of other science fiction movies. Oblivion borrows and even seems to outright steal from films such as Moon starring Sam Rockwell, The Matrix, Total Recall, and even a little from Independence Day.
It’s tragic that a film so well-crafted, which looks visually stunning and has solid performances from its talented cast, is nothing more than a copycat of other original science fiction films.
Oblivion opens in theaters on April 19, 2013 and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.
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