In the year 2077, humans have left earth and colonized Saturn's moon Titan after a devastating alien attack in 2017 that left the planet uninhabitable. We won the war after using our nukes to take out the aliens, but we lost the planet in the process. Two humans are left to service patrolling drones and protect massive hydro collectors, which are sucking up the earth's oceans to be used as a source of energy on Titan. The humans, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are an "effective team," as their mission control leader constantly refers to them, but Jack feels like something is missing.
Five years earlier, Jack and Victoria had their minds wiped so as to make sure if they were captured by any aliens, or Scavs, left on the planet they would not be able to reveal any of humanities last secrets. But Jack has visions of a New York City he never knew, which existed before he was born. And a woman. With two weeks left before making the journey to Titan, Jack has a life-threatening encounter with the Scavs, and sees an object fall from the sky – a space capsule with humans in some kind of stasis. The drones destroy all but one of the survivors, and the one looks exactly like the woman in Jack's memories. And then things get freaky.
Oblivion is a movie best left unspoiled as the plot takes many turns that can leave some audience members dazed and confused. I've been amused by the many people, including some respected film critics, who didn't completely understand what was going on. The film does throw many surprises at you, but the one most people seem to have a problem with is a flashback that really explains the entire movie. I'm more perplexed by people who are confused by this storytelling device than I was about anything else in the movie.
Some people have also said that a major plot point involving the Scavs has been spoiled in the promotional ads, but I wasn't spoiled by anything I saw before the screening. In fact, the movie was nothing that I expected from seeing the trailer, and that's a good thing. You go in with a preconceived notion of what you think the movie is, and come out with your mind blown.
While skirting the film's plot, I have to say that Tom Cruise turns in another solid performance. I can't say that he's playing anyone different than he's played in Minority Report or Mission: Impossible, but it is another solid performance. I guess you could say he's reliable when given this kind of role. I really felt a lot of emotion from Andrea Riseborough's performance as she tries to keep Jack reigned in, even if at times she seemed a little too childlike in the way she looks at him. Olga Kurylenko, as the mysterious woman, is fine but isn't really given much to do except be the catalyst for Jack's actions. And for all the focus on Morgan Freeman in the ads, I think he's in the movie about ten minutes and seems to be playing a futuristic version of Lucius Fox. Nicolaj Coster-Waldau is also in the movie, and Oscar winner Melissa Leo also turns up in a very odd performance. None of them are bad or bring down the movie, but seeing fairly recognizable actors in small, odd or insignificant roles almost takes you out of the action.
That action, however, is terrific and second-time director Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) proves that he has the chops to deliver a visually magnificent film (he also developed the story). Along with his cinematographer Claudio Miranda, they have produced some startling images that could be framed and hung on your walls – vast deserts with tops of skyscrapers jutting out, a shattered moon, a hidden oasis – and they look even more spectacular on the huge IMAX screen, the recommended way to see this film. The sound design is also amazing with some really cool, original sound effects created for the drones. And kudos to Kosinski and Universal for daring to deliver a blockbuster, summer sci-fi flick that isn't a reboot, remake or sequel to something else. Yes, Kosinski does pay homage to many sci-fi films of the past, particularly The Matrix, and throws in a Top Gun reference as well, but these things don't detract from the mind-bending story.
Oblivion may not be a complete sci-fi classic, and it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I was enthralled by the whole environment Kosinski has created, I was particularly charmed by Riseborough, I was blown away by the visuals and sound design, and I was always kept guessing as to where the story was headed. Some have said the film was too obvious and unoriginal, but I was totally drawn in with wide-eyed wonderment.