From the beginning, Universal Pictures’ latest sci-fi adventure, Oblivion is a lot to process. It’s been 60 years since Earth was attacked by a group of aliens known as the “Scavs”, and the world hasn’t been the same since. The pack of Scavengers have gone rogue, destroyed the moon and wrecked more than one-half of the planet in a nuclear war, making it uninhabitable. The year is now 2077, and Tom Cruise plays “Jack Harper, Tech 49”, a handyman who repairs drones, which patrol the skies, while protecting the planet from the aliens. He lives in a tower several thousand feet above post-apocalyptic New York City, with his part-time lover/communications officer Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who is part of an operation to extract Earth’s remaining resources before joining the rest of humanity on Titan, Saturn’s moon. Everyday the pair receives orders from their commanding officer Sally (Melissa Leo), via videoconference as she instructs “Tech 49” which of the gun-bots needs to be fixed.
“I can’t shake the feeling that despite all that’s happened, Earth is still my home,” Tech 49 narrates, so with each mission completed, Jack engages in a bit of extra-curricular activity for a bit of normalcy, on a piece of forest-like terrain over the mountains where his private cabin is located. Outfitted with some of Jack’s personal belongings, the tree house where Harper retreats boasts a very different environment from his Jetsons-like hi-rise, where he trades computerized gadgets for vinyl and literature. No one knows about this secret hideaway – not Victoria, or Mission Control, which adds more mystery to this already overwhelming narrative.
Tech 49’s life is pretty much routine, but viewers can sense that something is wrong, as Jack Harper keeps dreaming of a mysterious woman ogling at him atop the Empire State Building; which seems weird considering his entire memory has been erased. Then, midway through the film the audience learns of Oblivion‘s co-stars Julia (Olga Krylenko), and Beech (Morgan Freeman) who allow the most surprising elements of the story to unfurl.
Sci-fi fans have seen this kind of movie before – in Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, and Len Wiseman’s Total Recall re-make — so without giving away too much of the premise, all you need to know is: as Oblivion’s picture gets hazy, simply turn off your brain and just enjoy the action sequences Tom Cruise flicks are known for. And although the plot lacks originality, there is still plenty to marvel at in Oblivion – specifically the sleek rides; heavy artillery; and visually stunning cinematography by Claudio Miranda. He even gets to fly sleek aircrafts (think Top Gun); kick alien butt; and eventually regains fragments of key memories throughout his life, that aid him in finding happiness.
Regardless, I’d much rather play Oblivion as a “Rise Of The Scavengers” video game, than watch it on the big screen, so feel free to cut me a check should anyone decide to take my advice.