Tom Cruise stars in Oblivion, an original and groundbreaking cinematic event from the visionary director of Tron: Legacy and producers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. On a spectacular future Earth that has evolved beyond recognition, one man’s confrontation with the past will lead him on a journey of redemption and discovery as he battles to save mankind.
The contrast between stunning blue-hued technology and the moldering remnants of an Earth that has been decimated by environmental catastrophe and weapons of absolute destruction is kind of a neat parallel to the twisty story that makes Oblivion such a fun, albeit decidedly bleak Tom Cruise sci-fi crowd pleaser. Cruise is Jack Harper, a futuristic maverick who patrols the wasteland of our planet in 2077, 60 years after an alien invasion by the "scavs" left it a dying cinder. His girlfriend/partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) whispers directives in his ear from their iPad-like headquarters in the clouds, getting her orders from a video-only spectral overlord named Sally (Melissa Leo), who oozes not-quite-right with every politely southern-drawled command. Jack's job is to zip around repairing security drones and keep safe from scav attacks the enormous fusion converters that are sucking Earth's last ocean resources dry for the surviving humans who now populate Saturn's moon Titan. Very soon Jack and Victoria will be departing to the massive hovering mothership for their escape to Titan and a life of love and leisure. But something's not quite right in Jack's perception of things, in spite of the "security memory wipe" both he and Victoria live with. He can't shake persistent dreams of a thriving New York City, a place he experiences in reality only as crumbling canyons marked by the ground-level spire of the Empire State Building. There are other troubling signs as Jack whizzes through dangerous atmospheres and landscapes in a snazzy bubble-shaped spacecraft or rides a streamlined motorbike that's the perfect accessory for his sleek leather suit and ergonomic armaments. He thinks the scavs are trying to capture, not kill him, plus he's spending more and more secret time shooting hoops and listening to Led Zeppelin at a bucolic lakeside log cabin where Victoria can't track him. Oblivion takes its time with this absorbing mood-setting background of visually ravishing tableaux. At the halfway mark, it starts throwing around wild twists and turns after Jack investigates the crash landing of a spaceship from Earth's past. From it he rescues the woman of his dreams (Olga Kurylenko), which is the breaking point for his already almost-blown mind. The sinister vibe that has been a background rumble throughout quickly gains volume. An appearance by Morgan Freeman in cool-cat shades and a black cape gives the extra complexity some real class. It's a bit of a paradox that the script has such bold insights, yet is also so brashly derivative. The stylistic flourishes and elegant conceptual designs are singular in their vision, but there are direct references and plot cues taken from dozens of other movies, including WALL-E, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Moon, and Total Recall. It's not too hard to see where the threads lead, but flying along as Oblivion ties them together is a trip of its very own. --Ted Fry