'Oblivion' Movie Review: A Satisfying Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Adventure
Already when main character Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) starts off the beginning Oblivion with describing his dreams of life on earth before the war — dreams so realistic they are like real memories — we know that this isn't just another action flick.
There is a background to this story that is revealed early on. In the year 2017, an alien attack on earth was launched from outer space. The aliens managed to destroy the moon, which caused a range of natural disasters on earth, almost destroying the entire surface. The aliens were defeated, but mankind was forced to flee to one of Jupiter's moons to take refuge. A giant space colony, the "Tet", was then built to orbit the earth, harboring a large amount of the remaining human population, awaiting the extraction of water from the earth's oceans to the new colony. At least this is what Jack Harper is told as the truth of what happened in the past.
He works as a technician and repair-man, assigned to supervise the extraction reactors and the flying drones — a la R2D2 — guarding them. We pick up in a near future, about sixty years from the present day. Jack and his colleague/girlfriend Vika (Andrea Riseborough) perform their team duties of patrolling the surface. They are "the mop-up crew," as Jack so eloquently puts it. One day Jack sees an old spacecraft from before the war crashing down from the sky, triggered to leave its orbit around earth by something on the surface. There were humans on board. The sole survivor, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), reminds Jack of a woman in his recurring dreams, and he starts getting suspicious about the world he's been living in. Soon he discovers that there are human survivors after the alien invasion hiding beneath the earth's surface, lead by a man called Beech (Morgan Freeman).
This mystery unfolds quite beautifully during two hours of very handsome, sparse visual effects, weaving together the tech of the future with the remnants of the "old" world as we know it. Jack has a knack for collecting souvenirs from his daily patrol missions in the former New York area. This is indeed sentimental sci-fi at its best. It combines a too clean Huxlean future with some down to earth and chaotic Mad Max influences. There are also streaks of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the calm digitalized voice seemingly emanating from an Artifical Intelligence.
There is a simplicity and elegance of both the story and the cinematics in this film. It is not clattered with laser and explosions. the tech is subtle and effectively used to create a believable future. Because of this, the story is free to evolve on its own, and the focus lies on the mystery, not the low-key action. The story is more of a sci-fi mystery thriller. I would go as far as to say this is a new "old" Star Trek movie. The downside to the slight similarities with other sci-fi movie, is that parts of the plot become predictable, however not to the extent that it ruins the story. The powerful post-apocalypse beginning gets our juices flowing, and the ending has a very satisfying twist. In between is a great series of exciting, supersonic and even sentimental sequences, so handsomely done, you don't even ask any questions about how it all really ties up — because you simply don't care.
There is not much more to ask of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film. If this is representative of what movies Tom Cruise will be doing from now on, he will indeed continue to be our big screen hero for at least four more years. This movie proves that there can't be enough of Tom Cruise on the big screen. Watch it, and you'll know what I mean.
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