In an era where most blockbuster action/thrillers have more loose ends than the before lady in a shampoo commercial, all a film really has to do to not suck is make sense.
Oblivion makes sense. Therefore, Oblivion doesn't suck.
While the film thinks it’s being more mind-blowing than it actually is, ultimately Oblivion is a fun, clean, flashy movie with a few well thought-out twists and turns.
The film does have some pacing issues, the biggest of which being that the backstory is so complicated, the first fifteen minutes of the film feel like a training seminar.
Tom Cruise stars as Commander Jack Harper, the man with the most Ordinary name in America. No, actually, Harper is a drone repairmen left on Earth after its abandonment, following an alien attack.
“We won the war, but lost the planet,” his character says. With his partner Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, who also happens to be sleeping with him (if you were the lost two on Earth, wouldn’t you?), he is tasked with ensuring that a robotic operation to harvest the Earth’s water for use on the human race’s new home goes smoothly, without any interruption from the few remaining alien scavengers (called Scavs).
Once the operation is completed, according to their mission control officer Sally, played by Melissa Leo, Jack and Victoria will join her and the rest of humanity on a giant space station, used as holding stage until their new planet is ready.
Oh yeah, and Jack and Andrea’s memories were erased in order to aid the mission.
Okay, now the plot can start (right?).
One day, while out on the job, a Scav homing device brings down a spaceship carrying a crew in hibernation. The drones that Jack repairs immediately take fire.
Jack sees Julia, a woman he recognizes from his dreams, played by Olga Kurylenko, among the crew, and saves her.
Julia’s arrival sends Jack on a journey to discover the truth behind the alien war, which begins when the two are captured by a human resistance movement, headed by Morgan Freeman.
The plot has some issues, namely that the memory erasures are a dead giveaway that some crazy self-discovery is going to happen, and the movie could have worked just as well without them.
Despite this, and one of the worst monologues about sports ever preserved on film, Oblivion feels cogent.
The performances are good enough, if a tad “futuristically stiff,” especially Cruise’s. Though, to be fair, Cruise feels futuristically stiff even when he’s on a talk show. The guy is weird.
The ending is massive in scope, while still holding true to the reality of the movie, which is an extremely novel feat by director Joseph Kosinski in the era of low-concept, three hour, plotless, leaky, explosion-riddled garbage.
Ultimately, Oblivion looks really nice, and is a fun high-concept sci-fi action movie not based on a franchise. Plus, it clocks it at just over 2 hours, so it’s definitely worth seeing on a weekend where it’s the only new release.