Oblivion

In 2077 Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise is an engineer in the last days of his hitch on an Earth ravaged by a war with aliens.  He lives in a posh floating house with his supervisor, Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, going down to the surface every day to repair the drones that guard giant automated factories draining the Earth’s oceans of hydrogen to use on colonies on Titan.  Two more weeks and they can begin their journey to the colony.

Both of them had their memories wiped when their mission started five years before in case they are captured by the remnants of the alien enemy, called “scavs.”  But for Jack a few images from his lost years are dribbling through.  One of them is of a beautiful woman on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  When he rescues that woman from a crashed spaceship, he realizes that his assumptions about history and the nature of his world are all wrong.

None of this sounds particularly promising to old science fiction hands.  SF is a literature of ideas and film, which tends toward the visual and therefore surface elements, always lags behind when it tries to make something intellectual.  Oblivion is no exception.  The twist at the end is about as profound as an essay for an expository comp class written by a high school sophomore.  And it takes a slow meandering course to get there.  And despite lasting over two hours this film doesn’t present you with any characters that you care about.

The film is pretty.  There are bleak landscapes and impressive sets.  I want to live in that house.  Tom Cruise does his Tom Cruise thing and that’s fine.  I doubt that Morgan Freeman had to do much preparation for his role beyond learning his lines.  The other cast members are competent.

But the film’s heart is more of a puzzle than an honest emotional statement.  And it’s not a particularly hard or intriguing puzzle at that.  Oblivion is an empty shell and a waste of time.

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