If you fear some kind of forthcoming apocalypse, this is not the year for you to go to the movies. There are multiple films that deal with the end of the world in one form or another, including Warm Bodies, It’s a Disaster, World War Z, Elysium, Pacific Rim and four others with the apt titles of Rapture-Palooza, After Earth, This is the End and The World’s End.
It’s unclear exactly what’s up with all the doom and gloom, but yet another is the unofficial kickoff to the summer movie season — yes, in April — Oblivion. Tom Cruise stars as Jack Harper, who, along with partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), has been tasked with being a sort of mop-up man as humans collect Earth’s remaining resources after a devastating war with aliens has left the planet uninhabitable.
Jack’s job is to make sure drones that protect massive machines collecting seawater, and hunt down any remaining so-called “scavs,” are kept up and running. Jack doesn’t always stick to orders, especially when his dreams seem to start manifesting themselves in real life.
Cruise has become a polarizing figure in recent years, but for my money, in the right role, he still has what it takes to be a great movie star.
There are too many twists and turns to say any more, but suffice it to say that, as with any good sci-fi film, not all is as it seems on the surface. Co-writer/director Joseph Kosinski delivers the goods for much of the film, even if the ultimate ending won’t come as much of a surprise to attentive viewers or sci-fi fanatics.
Kosinski has created an impressive hellscape of a world, although curiously one in which we only see decimated New York City locations like the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge. The visuals, from the home among the clouds where Jack and Victoria live to the bleakness of the surface, are worth the price of admission.
Also impressive is the sound, especially if you’re lucky enough to see the movie in an IMAX or similarly enhanced theater. The noise of the drones as they enter a scene or lay waste to a host of enemies is enough to knock you off your seat, although the exact noise they make is eerily reminiscent of a signature sound in Inception.
Cruise has become a polarizing figure in recent years, but for my money, in the right role, he still has what it takes to be a great movie star. This one doesn’t quite match up to his last great one, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but it’s still a solid performance. It boggles the mind how anyone, movie star or not, can be as fit as he is at age 50.
Cruise is clearly the star, even with other big names like Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo in the cast. The latter two are actually given short shrift — especially Freeman. His character’s impact is pretty minimal considering he has second billing. Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko both get much more screen time, and both prove worthy of it.
Oblivion doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to sci-fi films, and it could even be considered a retread in certain respects. But the notable technical aspects of the movie demand attention, and Cruise’s presence keeps the film afloat even through rocky points.