Cast: Jack (Tom Cruise), Beech (Morgan Freeman), Julia (Olga Kurylenko), Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and Sally (Melissa Leo)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Theatrical release: 04/19/2013
DVD Date: 08/06/2013
Running Time: 124 minutes
Note(s): Screenplay by Karl Gajdusek and Michael deBruyn and based on the graphic novel original story by Joseph Kosinski.
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Review: The sci-fi thriller Oblivion is one of those films that is hard to recap without giving away too much of a storyline that includes more than a few twists and turns. But here's what I can say: Tom Cruise plays Jack, a technician on a post-war Earth, one in which the humans won against the aliens but one which left the planet virtually uninhabitable. Pockets have been cleared of radiation, and it is in these pockets that he does his job: repairing the automated drones that seek out and kill any alien survivors of the war. But when he encounters another human living on the surface — all others have been evacuated to either Saturn's moon Titan or an orbiting platform that also acts as a control center — he has to evaluate everything he knows about the war itself and his purpose on the planet.
There are only a handful of characters in the film, so it's easy to get to know them all. Or at least think that you're getting to know them all. And for the most part it's well produced, with decent graphics and visual effects. The problem I had with Oblivion is that I started asking myself questions about the story almost from the very beginning, and spent too much time trying to find answers, of which there were precious few. One of the early questions: Why did his employer wipe Jack's memory clean, only to leave bits and pieces of a meeting with a woman at a pre-war Empire State Building that he recalls in dreams? What was the purpose of the procedure if humans won the war? (Hint and a bit of a spoiler: because it is a plot convenience to have it so.) Another early question: The drones are protecting the ocean-based energy generators from the few aliens left after the war (which ended some 60 years ago). Why do the drones travel so far inland, and is Jack alone in servicing them all? (Hint and another bit of a spoiler: he isn't alone, and while he has an inquisitive side, apparently that doesn't extend to seeking out and interacting with his fellow technicians. Yes, another plot convenience.) And so on. By the end of the film you'll be asking yourself why the screenwriters didn't at least try to explain some of the gaping holes in the plot. My guess is: They couldn't come up with something more credible than simply leaving them unaddressed.
Fans of Tom Cruise will want to see Oblivion if only because he's in almost every scene. He plays the same character he's played over and over again before, so no surprises there, but it suits him and that's probably good enough. Morgan Freeman is a bit of a throwaway; he has a key role but doesn't really embrace it, and as he would be the source of answers for many of the questions being raised, it's probably wise to keep him off screen as much as possible. The other characters are fine but not terribly memorable.
On balance, I disliked Oblivion more than I liked it, but there are elements that prompt one think about our own perception of reality, and a film that makes you think about the bigger picture isn't all bad.
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