(NEW YORK) — It’s 2077 and the world has been ravaged by war, but there are a few humans left that now live on one of Saturn’s moons. At least that’s how Jack, played by Tom Cruise, explains his situation. Jack remains on Earth as part of what he describes as a “mop-up team,” taking care of drones that protect Earth’s remaining assets against further alien attacks. The rest of the mop-up team consists of Vika (Andrea Riseborough), with whom Jack cohabitates in a sky-tower in the clouds that also doubles as their base of operations as Jack flies around all day in a little ship, doing his thing.
Every day, Vika has to check in with mission control, a woman with a Southern drawl named Sally (Oscar-winner Melissa Leo). Sally finishes every conversation by asking Vika, “Are you an effective team?” Her faux sincerity and authoritarian tone leaves us with the impression that should Vika answer anything other than “yes,” Vika and Jack would be in lots of trouble.
While Jack is good at his job and had the mandatory memory wipe that goes along with doing what he does, he often dreams of being atop of the Empire State building with a strange woman. It sparks his curiosity and gives him the feeling that something is missing.
Turns out something is missing from Oblivion. Originality!
The aliens who attack Jack on a regular basis eventually capture him — but it turns out they’re not aliens: they’re human. Their leader is a man named Beech, played by Morgan Freeman, who’s like a remedial-level version of Morpheus from The Matrix.
Once Beech has forced Jack to be a little more curious about his situation, Jack becomes bold. After an alien ship crashes, Jack disobeys Vika’s orders to stand down and investigates. The ship contains five humans in hibernation. Jack can’t prevent the drones from killing four of them but the one he does save happens to be Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the woman from his dreams. And that’s when the truth slowly — VERY slowly — emerges.
The strengths of Oblivion lie in this particular dystopian world. While we get so many these days in the movies, this one is particularly arresting and impressive to look at, especially on an IMAX screen. Furthermore, the score from French electronica outfit M83 is rousing and, frankly, prevents you from falling asleep in the some of the film’s slower moments.
The weaknesses? Well, in case you haven’t picked up on it yet: the pacing! Maybe the title is also meant to be the running time, as in, “How long does this movie last?” “Oh, until oblivion.” Also, while it’s fine to be derivative of other genre films, 2009’s Moon, directed by Duncan Jones, was similar in tone, much cheaper to produce, more profound and simply more enjoyable.
Early on there are moments in Oblivion that make you feel like it could be a special movie, until it begins to feel as if those moments happened three days ago. Also, one of the final lines Jack delivers could’ve been classic, if only this movie had been shorter and a bit more exciting.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.
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