Tom Cruise stars in an innovative, thought-provoking, and often brilliant science fiction thriller that stands as one of the genre’s most satisfying entries of the 21st century. The movie I speak of is 2002’s Minority Report. However, this is my review of Cruise’s new sci-fi thriller Oblivion.
This is Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski’s second feature and he certainly succeeds at making Oblivion a visually pleasing experience. The film is set in 2077 with Cruise as Jack Harper, a drone repairman stationed on Earth fifty years after a cataclysmic event made the planet uninhabitable. When not repairing those pesky drones, he also must contend with the Scavs, aliens who invaded the planet. He is teamed with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough in a good performance) on his mission, who also serves as his love interest. They are in the final days of their assignment and are scheduled to go to Titan, a colony with survivors that was established after the terrible Earth events. Harper is plagued by dreams that he believes are from his past life (all Earthlings had their memories wiped clean) and he often visualizes the same mystery woman, played by Olga Kurylenko. You’ll likely remember this actress as the main Bond gal in Quantum of Solace.
These dreams lead Harper to some startling discoveries that lead him to question all the events which have occurred over the past fifty years. This includes meeting not only that mystery woman, but also a team of Earth dwellers led by Morgan Freeman.
It’s pretty much impossible to further describe the plot of Oblivion without revealing spoilers. The screenplay is filled with twists and turns. And therein is where some problems lie with the movie. It took four writers, including director Kosinki, to come up with a script that is needlessly complicated. The way the story is structured, we as an audience are left constantly playing catch-up and trying to piece together what we’ve been told. At least it’s a positive that some of the plot points are explained in a monologue by the nation’s narrator-in-chief Morgan Freeman. Still, Oblivion‘s writers seem to think their script is much more clever than it really is. Truth be told, the movie is essentially a rehash of many other sci-fi pics. And while I mentioned its visually appealing look, even that look is derivative of countless other sci-fi entries from Minority Report to Mad Max.
Cruise is solid as usual, though he has little chemistry with Kurylenko. His scenes with Riseborough fare better. Oscar winner Melissa Leo has a rather thankless role as a mission control operator. Freeman is, well, Freeman.
There’s plenty to like about Oblivion. Some of the sequences with Cruise at demolished landmarks like the Empire State Building work well. There are genuine moments of suspense with the Scavs and the drones, particularly in the first hour. Ultimately the screenplay hinders it from becoming a truly noteworthy genre title.
**1/2 (out of four)