Oblivion (2013)

21 Apr

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Post-apocalyptic world. Futuristic technology. Aliens. Impending doom. Chases. Dogfights. Crashes. Tom Cruise racing to the rescue. How many times have we seen that in a sci-fi movie? (OK, maybe not all at once, but you get the point.)

“Oblivion” is the latest sci-fi action-thriller to contain all of these elements, and more. We get the usual science-fiction basics that we’ve seen in such movies as “The Matrix,” “Total Recall,” “Minority Report,” and many more I could go on naming. But strangely enough, “Oblivion” is welcome for two reasons—1) It is still pretty intriguing and exciting, and you can sense that the filmmakers have a real respect for the genre; 2) It is always good to see a sci-fi film that is mainly idea-based. There may be a lot of action and special effects, but there are also all sorts of twists and turns along with many different concepts that are brought into the story.

However, that probably wouldn’t work in the film’s favor for box-office reasons and even for narrative reasons. For the former, I mean that “Oblivion” might actually be the rare sci-fi flick that teenagers won’t enjoy unless they’re willing to open their minds to such puzzling inclusions that come into place, particularly in the final half. Therefore, it may not make as much money as it would like to. And for the latter, I mean that there is way too much story material to fit into a 126-minute movie. I admire the creativity, but maybe half of it could have been the main focus (most of it is backstory, anyway). As a result, there are a few questions that come to mind because not all of them are answered in the movie.

But to the credit of the movie, I actually did care about what was happening onscreen, and even though I was somewhat confused by certain parts, I find myself thinking more about possible answers. That’s a sign that the movie did indeed work for me, and so I’m recommending it.

“Oblivion” takes place in the year 2077, years after a war between humanity and an invading alien race. Humanity won but Earth was destroyed—survivors have fled to Titan and set up home there. The Earth is watched by a series of drones and a few humans whose job is to look after them, while a few scattered survivors (known as Scavs) lurk about the remains of New York City. Tom Cruise stars as Jack (because just about every action hero needs the name “Jack,” doesn’t he?) who teams with Vic (Andrea Riseborough) to take care of these drones, just a couple weeks before they’re allowed to join the other humans. Their memories have been wiped out before the mission, but Jack seems to recollect certain vague memories that appear in his dreams, most of which involve a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). Jack spends his days locating and repairing lost drones, but he isn’t as anxious to return to Titan as Vic, who would just as soon forget about anything except Jack and the mission. Jack would rather stay in a make-shift cabin he built himself in a safe zone because Earth feels like home. “We won the war,” Jack thinks to himself. “Why do we have to leave?”

Period. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot. Let’s just say that Jack comes across one important, revealing situation/development after another, and leave it at that. “Oblivion” piles on idea after idea after idea, and you have to pay attention because you just might miss something.

Tom Cruise delivers what the role of Jack needs—the same physicality and roughness that made Tom Cruise eligible for action flicks and sci-fi films in the first place. And he’s pretty solid, making us like and root for him as Tom Cruise does best in this kind of movie. But he shares no chemistry with Andrea Riseborough, who is pretty bland anyway; however, once Olga Kurylenko comes into the picture, those two actually click. And Kurylenko is an actress I can describe as “ethereal”—she has a wonderfully expressive face and brings a true appeal to her character. Also in the cast is a cigar-chomping Morgan Freeman as a ringleader for a human resistance living on Earth (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, as the ads for this movie make clear). He does what Morgan Freeman does best—express coolness with that distinctive deep voice of his.

The visual effects in “Oblivion” are practically Oscar-level. We have small aircraft for Cruise to fly around in, a high-rise apartment that sees over practically the entire East Coast, and of course a post-apocalyptic environment that includes the ruins of cities such as Washington DC and New York City. Even though we’ve seen this sort of world before, it’s still an effective setting for this sort of film. Even if people don’t care much for the story and how everything sort of (though sort of doesn’t) play itself out along the way, you can’t deny that “Oblivion” isn’t a great visual experience. See it in IMAX if you can.

After you’ve seen “Oblivion,” it’s probably best to talk about it with someone who already has seen it. This is one of those sci-fi movies that require to really think about what has just been thrown at you. Talking to someone about certain details may surprise you in what you can come with as a result. Or maybe just see it a second time and hope you catch certain things you didn’t notice the first time; that’s exactly what I’m going to do soon. I may have missed something, but I give “Oblivion” credit for actually making me care about what it was I had to consider. For that, I give it a mild recommendation.   

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One Response to “Oblivion (2013)”

  1. Oblivition July 29, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    one of grate movie released on 2013, i really love this movie

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