Buy a big tub of popcorn for ‘Oblivion’

Tom Cruise in 'Oblivion'
Tom Cruise in ‘Oblivion’

The dystopian surface of Earth shown at the outset of Oblivion is not a place that any human being in their right mind would choose to live.  Barren, filled with zones of high radioactivity and still populated by the “Scavs” (who are supposedly the remnants of an invasion force); almost no humans live there.  They are all on “Tet” a gigantic ship in orbit around the planet, or on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn.  The planet was ravaged by the invasion of the Scavs, who blew up the Moon along with creating havoc on Earth.

But “Jack Harper” (Tom Cruise), better known as Tech 49, is there along with his partner, “Victoria Olsen” (Andrea Riseborough) who is his communications officer.  His job is to maintain the drones that protect the large machines that are using the Earth’s oceans to create energy for use on Titan.  They are less than two weeks away from completing their mission, going back to Tet and setting off to their new home on Titan.

Jack isn’t quite sure he wants to leave.  He and Victoria were given a mandatory “memory wipe” before being put onto the planet’s surface, yet he is troubled by recurring mental images of himself before the war.  Some of them feature him and a woman he can’t quite place, on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  He also has found and is maintaining a small patch of fertile, lush land with a small cabin on it.  He isn’t sure he wants to leave it, but he can’t convince Victoria to leave the station and visit the surface with him.  It is “against the rules”.

The Scavs manage to transmit a homing beacon and that causes the “Odyssey” to crash at a precise set of coordinates.  Jack shows up and finds a number of the ship’s crew in sleep capsules and rescues one of them from the drones.  She is “Julia” (Olga Kurylenko), and she knows Jack.

As for the rest of the story, it is best experienced by you on-screen rather than on the written page.  It’s a strong ‘popcorn’ type flick that definitely is derivative and pays homage to a number of other sci-fi/action films.  I found some of the activities of the drones very reminiscent of one of my favorite 1970s era films, Silent Running.  You can pick at the story and the science if you wish, but you’d be far better served by just ignoring those things and enjoying the film.  Olga Kurylenko is gorgeous to look at although she isn’t a brilliant actress.  Tom Cruise is steady in typical action-hero mode, and Andrea Riseborough has some excellent moments.  Melissa Leo plays “Sally”, the commander of Tet and does it quite well.  Kosinski has proven he is up to the task of handling sci-fi films and while this isn’t ground-breaking or highly original, it’s fun.

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