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The April release of Oblivion sees Tom Cruise step back into the sci-fi genre but with a very different approach to his previous roles in the likes of Minority Report and War of the Worlds – as the high action set-pieces have given way to a much steadier paced film.  Perhaps not to everyone’s liking but this definitely brings with it a lot of positives.

Written and Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron:Legacy) he’s brought his 2010 story to life after a fairly long time in what seemed like production hell as the rights passed from Disney to Universal and even as it’s brought to screen there’s a clause in the contract that holds up the Graphic Novel release until 2014 but I’m glad it’s finally saw the light of day.  Our story takes place on the remains of a post-war Earth in 2077, ravaged by nuclear war between humans and the Scavengers (Scavs for short) – an alien race that were ultimately defeated but at the highest cost.  Earth lost most of its inhabitants, it lost its Moon (that’s a heavy casualty for sure) and the remaining humans are planning their trip to a new home on Titan.  One final mission before the trip is gathering the water of Earth through huge hydro rigs that convert the crucial H2O to power.

Jack the Drone Repairer

The rigs themselves are guarded by drones and Jack Harper (Cruise) is the man in charge of maintaining these drones although he’s not working alone as his Comms Officer, Victoria, played by Brit Andrea Riseborough, keeps a watchful eye on him from their base in the sky.  Although its soon evident that they’re more than just colleagues as they countdown their last two weeks on Earth before they pack up and ship out to live their life together.  While that romantic interest is very real Jack becomes increasingly haunted by his dreams and some very real images of another woman from another life trigger his heavily nostalgic view of the world and what’s been lost.  Longing for the days of baseball games and old records and even slipping away from his work detail regularly to enjoy some time in his hidden cabin among his reclaimed books and within shooting distance of his basketball hoop.

Several attacks on the drones bring Jack into closer contact with the Scavs and the crash-landing of a NASA ship onto the planet sees Jack come face to face with the mysterious woman from his dreams and they are now on the search for more answers.  Through all this, Jack/Victoria try to keep their maintenance work on schedule as the watchful eye of folks in charge keeps the pressure on them.  More drone attacks leads to more repairs and this in turn brings Jack into the hands of the Scavs.

Cruise and Freeman

Captured and brought face to face with the Scavs leader (Morgan Freeman), Jack starts to get more of the answers he was after and some that he wasn’t expecting.  The Scavs are the last remaining survivors of Earth and the people in power are actually the alien race using Jack/Victoria and others like them to harvest the resources of Earth.  From here we get more of a high-paced face-off as Jack takes on the drones akin to his Top Gun days as he flies around the planet taking the drones down one at a time.  There’s more of a twist in the story as Jack strays into the contaminated areas of Earth that have remained off-limits up until now and he finds out more about what’s really going on, who’s really in-charge and the past life that’s been wiped from his memory.  All in all there are some fairly clichéd and a-typical sci-fi elements on offer here but the addition of some twists in the plot and plot gaps being filled in by some smart flashbacks of Jack’s previous life seems to help bring things together.

Oblivion - Jack and the Hydro Rigs

One of the most impressive elements of the movie though are the visuals – it looks like a much more expensive movie than its $120 million budget with stunning landscapes (strange for a post-war world) and the ultra-clean, sleek surroundings that the future always seems to promise.  Of course, in amongst this we have your typical world-recognized tourist attractions popping up (statue of liberty, empire state building, etc) that always seem to survive the biggest disasters that hit the planet – maybe a reference point for the viewer – who knows?  This movie won’t be viewed as a classic sci-fi film which is a real shame – I think it’s one of the first films I’ve seen Tom Cruise in for quite some time that I’ve seen him actually act in –switching between his by-the-rules future repair-man and his nostalgic, reminiscing side.  This strong lead and the visuals alone are reason enough to see this in the cinema and in fact, the vastness of the landscape means it’s a film made for seeing on the big screen.  There are elements of high-paced action and some smart twists and turns in the plot but that all seems to be subdued by the pacing of the film in general – which again isn’t a complaint on my part.  I enjoyed the film from beginning to end and I’m pretty sure I’ll go see it again.  I’m sure I’ll read the graphic novel too as Radical’s titles have proved to be particularly intriguing in the last few years.



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