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Movie Review: Oblivion
Oh please, let this not be Vanilla Sky.
That was the thought that ricocheted through my brain at the start of Oblivion. With it’s sleek, hip visuals and promise of Deep Dark Secrets, I worried that it would be an echo of that head-scratcher. I needn’t have worried. Oblivion isn’t a retread of Vanilla Sky, it’s a retread of just about every other Sci-Fi movie you’ve seen lately. It’s also a lovely way to waste a few hours. Like a chocolate-covered pill from Miracle Max, damn if it doesn’t go down smooth.
In 2017, the Earth gets a smackdown from an alien race. But all ended well, sorta; the humans won, but in order to do so we had to unleash the nukes. So now the bulk of surviving humanity lives on Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons. A small handful of survivors are the “clean-up crew”, extracting what little viable resources earth has left for use in our new planetary digs. How does war veteran Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) know that’s true? Because that’s what he was told after a “mandatory memory wipe” a few years back. Does anyone else think that’s kinda fishy? That’s an affirmative, y’all.
Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski brings all the beauty and futuristic minimalism of his Tron: Legacy to this film. He also brings along just about every sci-fi allusion you can think of. “Look, that’s just like Planet of the Apes!” “Whoa — that’s so totally Matrix!” “Hey, don’t the ‘Scavs’ look like Sand Raiders mixed with Mad Max?” “Oh, that’s so Fahrenheit 451!” You’ll be thinking all that and more. Because it’s true; this movie feels like a Frankenstein creation of many different bits and pieces of what has come before.
Kosinski gets away with it by keeping the pacing brisk. It’s a little uneven in parts (this movie is two very long hours, and you’ll feel every minute of it) but the ride gives great view. Art direction and cinematography is A+, and worth the IMAX investment if you’re near a theater that has that on offer. Destroyed stadiums, the ruins of New York Library (why do so many post-apocalyptic films put a hurtin’ on this library? What did it ever do to anyone?) and the Empire State Building covered in dirt up to it’s observation tower. The futuristic gee-gaws are lovely too, and I’d pay good money to stay in the house Jack and his team member Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) call home.
As folks with a different viewpoint (more would be a spoiler, but after about 10 minutes into Oblivion you’ll be able to suss it out yourself), Morgan Freeman and Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are suitably badass. Melissa Leo brings her considerable talents to bear as Jack and Victoria’s off-Earth contact Sally. And Quantum of Solace’s Olga Kurylenko plays an astronaut that crash-lands onto Earth and may have much more information than Jack can handle. She’s more than just the pretty sidekick here, though only by a nose. Oh, and Cruise is excellent, but you’ve seen this devil-may-care-hero in Top Gun, Mission Impossible, The Last Samurai….
Watching Oblivion will be an endurance test of how much rehash you can endure, and how long you can sit still while the plot drags on and on. But it’s an effective, beautiful ride if you’ve got a comfy seat, popcorn in your hand, and no other plans. Whether you choose the red pill or the blue is up to you.