“Oblivion” Movie Review

     Science Fiction films may be the toughest task in all of filmmaking, since inevitably judgement will be made with comparisons to the genre’s best.  It’s difficult to come off as original when your cityscapes will be compared to those seen in “Blade Runner”, your characters will be compared to those in “Star Wars” or “Star Trek”, and your overall vision of the future will be compared to “2001”.  This, of course, shouldn’t stop anyone from trying and this is certainly not the case with writer/director Joseph Kosinski’s “Oblivion”.  With the source material being Kosinski’s own graphic novel, the “Tron: Legacy” director has created what has to be received as a somewhat new twist on the genre about the last survivors on Earth after a brutal war with an invading alien race.  It doesn’t hurt that Kosinski’s film stars Tom Cruise either.

     In the early scenes of “Oblivion”, we meet Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who are presumably what’s left of humankind on Earth.  As it is explained, an alien force attacked Earth some 60 years ago, but humans won the war by using nuclear weapons.  This has caused the Earth to be uninhabitable due to radiation fallout.  Now in 2077, the remaining human population now lives in a colony located on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.  Jack and Victoria live high in the sky in an apartment type structure which looks like it was designed by the late Steve Jobs with it’s brushed metal and pearl white color scheme and fine lines throughout.  If Apple were still around then, they likely would’ve designed everything you see in the film.

     The primary job of the pair is to supervise  the mining of what’s left of Earth’s resources.  Giant machines float over the ocean and collect water as robot drones patrol the area and protect the machines from “Scavs”, aliens left over from the war who still  cause problems for the human operation.  Each day, Jack patrols the operation in a helicopter like vehicle and repairs drones as necessary.  It is during his patrols in the early scenes where we get an idea of the vision Kosinski set out to create.  Earth has been decimated and only scraps of famous buildings and landmarks remain.  Jack’s teammate, and bed mate, Victoria, supervises and directs his movements from a control room from their home base.  Up above, a giant pyramid like structure hovers in Earth’s atmosphere and is in constant communication with Jack and Victoria.  On a small video monitor, the duo’s supervisor, Sally (Melissa Leo), checks on their progress and frequently asks them “Are you an effective team?”

     Not all is as it seems when Jack is taken captive by a band of human survivors who live in the underbelly of destroyed structures on the Earth’s surface.  The group, led by Beech (Morgan Freeman), tells Jack there are secrets his employers don’t want him to know and encourages him to find them out for himself.  This becomes complicated when a spacecraft containing humans crashes on Earth and the drones are sent terminate the human survivors.  Jack is able to save one of them, who happens to be a female, Julia (Olga Kurylenko) he frequently dreams about.  The connections between Beech and his group with Julia leads Jack to a realization that has major consequences for all characters involved.

     “Oblivion” won’t wow you with it’s dull color scheme and conservative design, but the elements do fit nicely together with the story.  The interactions between Jack and Victoria seem manufactured at first, but the third act of the film explains why and allows these characters to come into their own when they must determine what side they are on.  Kosinski handles the film’s action sequences well and doesn’t overindulge in the use of CGI, preferring instead to let his characters tell the story with the ruins of Earth used primarily as a backdrop.  Cruise’s performance is stellar as you would expect, not a surprise since he has played characters just like Jack in films such as “Minority Report” and “War of the Worlds” in the past.  “Oblivion” doesn’t really break any new ground as a Science Fiction film, but it doesn’t rely on past influences either. Kosinski has successfully matched star power with a compelling story and a “Total Recall” like twist which give “Oblivion” just the right ingredients to succeed.  GRADE: B+