Cruising Toward Oblivion – A review of “Oblivion”

Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman star in the post-apocalyptic thiller Oblivion from Universal Pictures
Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman star in the post-apocalyptic thiller Oblivion from Universal Pictures
4 stars for Oblivion

Summary: A visually impressive look at another post-apocalyptic Earth. Tom Cruise is at his best playing a tech torn between the world of the present and the world of the future as he struggles to discover the truth behind the events that led to the world he inhabits.

I find myself wondering time and again why film makers always target New York for their post apocalyptic tales. I mean, after all, there are other recognizable landmarks in other cities that would make them equally perfect backdrops, too. But here, we’re back in the good old Big Apple, complete with decimated Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and even the New York Public Library.

Nothing is quite so awe inspiring as seeing the toppling of a great civilization. We’ve seen it dozens of times in movies like Escape from New York, Planet of the Apes, The Road Warrior and any number of Roland Emmerich movies. But one thing that generally seems to lack is a true thinking man’s plot underneath all the visuals.

When a movie actually makes you stop to consider the possibilities, though…when it doesn’t simply explain everything and forces you to really ponder what is shown, now that proves the true level of what science fiction on the screen is capable of doing.

Here, we’re shown a future Earth of the year 2077. The planet has been decimated by alien beings and humans have fled to the distant moon of Titan to re-establish civilization as we know it. Giant reclamators have been positioned above Earth to process and filter the water from our planet’s oceans for use to help establish the new world.

To fight off the alien inhabitants of our world, drones are dispatched to obliterate any living presence detected on the planet. Jack Harper (Cruise) is a technician assigned to keep the drones in optimum condition so they can accomplish their brutal task.

He proves himself to be a most resourceful human, often keeping the drones operating with little more than spit and bubble gum. It’s a thankless job, made barely a little more satisfying or tolerable with the help of his partner/communications specialist Victoria (Andrea Riseborough).

Where the twist comes in is the discovery of other humans who, up until now, only haunt Jack’s memories. But their introduction forces Jack to reconsider all the truths that he and Victoria have been led to believe.

Revelations bring questions to Jack’s mind and draw us down the same paths. All is not as it appears, but then again, this is frequently the message presented in other well played science fiction classics.

Cruise is at his best here, bringing just the right mix of bravado and insightfulness that allow us to accept the reality of the character and his situation. Likewise, Morgan Freeman helps to ground the story for us and his earnest character portrayal brings us the understanding that humanity must triumph against both the machines and the planetary conquerors if it is to rebuild and survive.

The strength of the story comes in its reluctance to reveal the complete picture. We must take the visuals and the story and form our own hypothesis of the events. But this can also be the story’s downfall as well since it doesn’t answer or even try to answer every question that it presents.

Great science fiction classics can show us a future that lies in ruins and despair, but it can also bring us hope for mankind as well. If you can approach Oblivion with an open mind, you won’t be disappointed by it. But if you prefer your future visions to be mindless like Armageddon or any of the ubiquitous Transformer installments, this movie will probably bore you to death.

I give Oblivion 4 out of 5 stars.

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