Movie Review: Oblivion


Last night, we went out with my brother and sister-in-law on a double date.  We had a great time and took in the new Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion.  We have gone to see several movies together over the years. Most of them are action movies or sci fi flicks.  This was kind of both.

Was it any good?  I hear you ask.  Well… read on.  Spoiler alert!  I will be discussing plot points of the movie.  If you don’t wanna know, don’t read this.

The movie starts out with Tom Cruise doing a voice-over as we view  a version of a  wrecked earth.  Aliens attacked the moon, throwing the planet into chaos:  oceans swelled into tsunamis, earthquakes leveled cities, people starved.  They invaded and earthlings fought and won the war, kicking ET’s heinie.  The earth was left in ruins.  Then the government constructed a space station and a new civilization on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to house the survivors.

And this is where my questions started.  Why Titan?  Isn’t that a bit out-of-the-way? And how did they construct everything and get it out there?   I put it aside.

The voice-over continued to say that the Earth of now was uninhabitable.  And yet Tom Cruise’s character, a drone repair technician, spends ALL of his day flying around, searching out  and repairing downed drones, and walking the surface of the planet.  He needs no protective mask; the air is fine.  He and his wife, Victoria, are there to make sure the oceans get drained completely dry, turning it into potable water for the colonists, and making sure “scabs” (leftover aliens) don’t sabotage their final exit from the decimated orb.  They must protect the “Tet”, the machine changing the water.

But, as in so many movies in the last 15 years, reality is not what it seems.  Tom Cruise has been making his living handily as a “man out of time” character.  Mission Impossible.  Knight and Day. Minority Report.  Vanilla Sky. He plays these roles of a person who either 1) doesn’t know who he really is, or 2) others don’t truly know him, or 3) both.  Frankly, it’s getting tiresome.

He is restless in this job.  It’s a sort of Adam and Eve scenario.  He and Victoria live in a dwelling pitched high in the clouds for safety.  She is mission control and monitors all his communication and movements.  They are the last humans left on Earth, the “mop-up crew”, as he calls it.  He doesn’t want to leave.  He is haunted by very vivid dreams where he is on Earth before the wars, standing atop the Empire State building with an Audrey Hepburn type (not Victoria), looking out over the city.  He knows his memory was “wiped” so he wouldn’t compromise the current mission.  He has questions; his wife Vic doesn’t.  She’s more than ready to go to Titan and get off the dead carcass.

He does his job and manages to elude the watchful eye of his wife, flying to places where the earth has healed itself.  He has a little verdant valley where he’s built a cabin on a lake.  Fresh water and fish survive.  Trees, birds and grasses fill the area, seemingly untouched by all the devastation.  Tom has books, records and even a little windpower.  For him, it’s a little slice of heaven.  Victoria won’t go down to see it; she’s stuck on the regulations forbidding her to do so.  She uses her feminine wiles to great advantage to keep his heart with her.

At about this point, as he struggles with longing for more and dodging wifey, I started thinking, where are we going with this?  This is a long movie to make about a midlife crisis.  And Tom Cruise has aged amazingly well.  He’s 50!  I guess those are thoughts you shouldn’t be having in the middle of a new movie.

I won’t summarize the rest of the movie because it would take too much time. Morgan Freeman’s appearance  is a bright spot, sort of reprising his role as God from the Bruce and Evan Almighty movies.   But aliens aren’t always aliens.  Triangles are bad. Drones look remarkably like round versions of WALL-E.  And sometimes you do have evil twins.  Lots, in fact.

The ending has elements of Armageddon, Deep Impact, Matrix, 2012,  and First Contact  bound up in it, like a smorgasbord of sci-fi end-of-the-world goodness.  It also incorporated Biblical concepts, like the Flood and a certain amount of personal redemption.  The basic messages of the movie seem to be:  Don’t trust the government.  Question reality.  Even after all hope is gone, life renews itself.  We shall overcome.  That part was beautiful.


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