In a post apocalyptic world, where what remains of human life lives on a distant moon, one man’s job has him working with robotic drones to extract what little is left on Earth. As he traverses the desolate landscape, guided by his female colleague and overseen by a woman at central command, his human spirit grows, and he starts to question everything around him.
Who’s in It?
Tom Cruise is our hero Jack Harper, with plenty of face time naturally, and wouldn’t you know it, he gets stuck with some beautiful woman (and awesome toys). Andrea Riseborough plays his colleague and whatever you call the woman with whom you’re forced to live with as the last people on Earth. The glowing Olga Kurylenko shows up too, as does Morgan Freeman. There is something for the ladies as well: Mr. Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau (look him up).
When the sounds of robotic whirs, screeching spacecrafts, or a bombastic score don’t distract your mind, it’s easy to pick out a wide selection of science fiction films from which Oblivion nicely borrows. The futuristic abode and vehicles at Harper’s hand, and that fact that this stars Tom Cruise, evokes Minority Report (it almost looks like they use that cool swipe tech), while Freeman’s presence, clad in black, donning sunglasses, and offering tempered, esoteric advice, reminds of The Matrix. You may feel some Independence Day, I Am Legend, and even Blade Runner along the way, and it’s all well and good, because director Joseph Kosinski delivers the two most necessary elements: action and spectacle.
The landscape of Oblivion rivals the most evocative of post-apocalyptic films, as Harper tracks across desert landscapes that have consumed New York’s memorable structures. He stops into the Empire State Building, now barely peaking above the ground, falls into the city’s massive public library, and even takes a trip to Niagara Falls.
As it opens, Harper tells a hasty and complex story involving alien aggressors called Scavs, some energy-consuming structure called a Tet, and a hoard of spherical drones that beep and blow things up. Harper is the man in charge of fixing drones when they go down, and gets into trouble when he does. His curiosity gets the best of him – he has little recollection of Earth before the war as the minds of everyone were wiped out following the invasion– and his questioning spirits finds him getting into some spectacularly entertaining struggles.
Kosinski is masterful with actions sequences, akin to the wonderfully and emotively choreographed pieces he commanded in TRON: Legacy. Substance may be lacking, but he knows when to pump the volume and speed, and a chase scene in the middle of the film is extraordinary, and may even make you jump and jostle along with Cruise.
He carefully balances the science fiction jargon and mythology with entertainment, which is to say less of the former and more of the latter, occasionally and conveniently ignoring some rules he’s created in the process. It’s for the best though, as it results in a strange journey in a gorgeously rendered world that offers massive thrills. Cruise is divisive for many, but he is doing here what he has done best, and that’s playing a likeable, folksy, tough hero that. However he may be off screen, he sure is fun to watch.
Should You See It?
In for a dime, in for a dollar – see it, and do it in IMAX. It’s essential.
A pertinent question often asked of the two people on Earth: “Are you an effective team?”