Some films try too hard to be monumental productions and others not hard enough, so when I first saw the poster for Tom Cruise’s newest film Oblivion (I avoid trailers), my first thought was “oh no, this will be Cruise’s Waterworld,” but I was wrong. Director Joseph Kosinski, who gave us the disappointing Tron: Legacy, gives audiences a wild, visually stunning, sci-fi ride with Cruise at the wheel, and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to.
The film opens with Jack Harper (Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), sexual partners and technicians living and working on a beautiful, state of the art substation hovering above Earth. Cruise’s narration tells us about the end of the planet and about dreams he continual has, which feel like memories, but can’t be, since his and his partner’s memories were wiped clean. We learn the year is 2070-something, and Jack explains how decades earlier the human race engaged in war against an alien race known as the Scavs, who first blow up the Moon leaving it a streak of rubble in the sky – one of many stunning images offer by Kosinski. This explosion of the moon upset the Earth’s natural the tides and caused devastating changes in the climate. Eventually humans won out over the Scavs, but the use of nuclear weaponry left most of the planet uninhabitable. Most surviving humans moved to and now live on a enormous spaceship referred to as the Tet, after which they are meant to be transported to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, to begin a new civilization, a civilization supported in part by water drained from the oceans of Earth.
Kosinski impresses with his visual imagery, providing us with a world beyond imagination. Even Jack and Victoria’s home/workplace amazes as do Jack’s one man spaceship, the droids (which actually seem to have personalities) and images from and on Earth – beyond what we have seen before. All of this fascinated me. Oblivion is monumental in an extremely good way and Cruise plays his Jack a bit like Maverick in Top Gun, talented, cocky (but far more mature) and with a that charm which keeps us completely connected to Cruise and his character. Beyond the story, which has elements of the movie Moon starring Sam Rockwell, it is the characters that drive Kosinski’s film, them and the incredible world he has created for them to inhabit.
Morgan Freeman (Beech) and Melissa Leo (Sally) have small, but significant roles and they and the ladies, Riseborough and beautiful Olga Kurylenko do fine jobs. Kurylenko plays Julia, Jack’s wife from the past. After having been frozen for years she is revived when Jack finds her crashed ship. She is the stuff of his memories and together they must fight to right a serious wrong. It’s all quite exciting, even if the story isn’t totally fresh. Kurylenko, a notably slight woman, gives us a strong, determined heroine to match Jack’s tenacity, making for some exciting and passionate moments between the two.
Overall, not only does Kosinski please with his fascinating world, his pacing is perfect and intense, keeping the audience invested and engaged throughout its just over two hour run time. His is not a film, like many of Cruise’s, filled with chase sequences and explosions. Nor is it sci-fi with death rays and asteroid collisions or quirky robots and alien creatures. It is instead one filled with intriguing characters, sci-fi eye candy and a decent storyline. Bravo to all involved for making me love sci-fi again and for letting us know there are those who will work to create visually innovative entertainment. I am placing a B+ in my grade book, not higher because I recognized elements from other films and certainly not lower because Cruise and the ensemble cast are GREAT!