Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oblivion review

We're in a nice period where smart science fiction movies have been coming out. District 9 (2009); Inception (2010); Source Code (2011). So it remains to be seen if the coming of a new Star Wars movie in 2015 will have any effect on science fiction cinema. But what about actor Tom Cruise's new movie, Oblivion? Where does it fit in?

Based on director Josef Kosinski and Arvid Nelson's graphic novel of the same name, Oblivion takes place in 2077. According to Jack (Tom Cruise) an alien species called Scavengers have invaded earth. They destroy the moon which causes natural catastrophes. In response, humans nuke the planet and defeat the invaders. But the planet is not habitable so humans fled to Jupiter moon of Titan. Earth is used to make energy for the survivors. Jack along with his lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) maintain the drones which guard the machines from the remaining Scavengers. They seem like a happy couple but Jack is haunted by a woman (Olga Kurylenko) in his dreams. Later, he investigates a probe which has fallen to earth. It contains humans which are destroyed by the drones but Jack is able to rescue one of them which contains a woman named Julia (Kurylenko), the woman in his dreams.

The screenplay by Joseph Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt, Oblivion has a taut, fascinating story which gets the audience to ask questions. Why was Jack's memory wiped for security reasons? What is aboard the gigantic, enigmatic space station orbiting the earth? Is the mysterious Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) a good man or villain?

But this movie is more than a science fiction mystery. There is action. And director Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) stages the action set pieces well. There are epic visual scenes as we follow Jack's ship fly above the remains of earth. Unfortunately, the devastated earth offers very little in visuals. And one of the final firefights is a little confusing with all the fast cutting. Still, these are minor flaws.

Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances. He know his character well. And he doesn't go over the top. This is a mature Tom Cruise; he could not play Jack in his thirties. Warning. If you hate Tom Cruise, you might hate this movie. If you love Cruise, you'll probably love this movie due to a plot twist that I won't tell you. There's a sadness in Andrea Riseborough's Victoria. The same could be said for Olga Kurlenko's Julia. Victoria likes to say "Another day in paradise" but we know life on future earth is anything but. Morgan Freeman reminds me of his Science channel show "Through the Wormhole." He's got that gravitas and the willingness to teach Jack and the audience.

I sat fascinated by Oblivion. But it wasn't the action. It was the mystery of this future earth. If you like smart science fiction, you'll like Oblivion. The grade is A.

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