Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)
I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise. Yes, he certainly got dealt the “good-looking for life” card, and he is a decent actor, but his personal antics tend to leave me rolling my eyes – or worse – creeping me out. So I wasn’t completely on board with watching Oblivion, but Morgan Freeman trumped my distaste of Cruise.
The first five minutes or so was Jack Harper (Cruise) explaining the history. Bad guys came to Earth, we ended up using nukes, bad guys were defeated, but Earth was decimated. Survivors headed to “Tet”, a way-station between Earth and Titan, the Saturn moon where humans re-settled. Jack is teamed with Victoria to help secure the remaining machines that are draining the last of Earth’s resources (water) to be transported to Titan and they are about 2 weeks away from leaving Earth and joining everyone else. The last of the invaders (“Skavs”) tend to put monkey-wrenches in their plans by sabotaging drones that help secure the water-suckers.
His days are spent leaving the security of his home to patch up the drones while Victoria keeps an eye on things from the home office, assisted by mission control from the Tet. While out on patrol or patching up drones, Jack finds remnants of the Earth that was, and has flashbacks to a life he’s not sure he actually lived. In his reality, his mind was erased years before as a “security measure” so if Skavs ever captured him, he could not reveal vital information. Of course, things begin to unravel, and Jack must figure out the truth while there’s still time.
Overall I really liked the environment, the story idea, the acting. I loved the technology they were using (I can absolutely see this coming), the vehicles and clothing styles were different enough without leaving me feeling bludgeoned by “HEY LOOK we’re in the FUTURRRRE!!!” My biggest problem was how the story unfolded on screen. For instance, the initial voice-over setup of the world as it is was repeated again for a character later in the film – I thought skipping the first voice-over and just allowing us to hear it when explained later would have saved us some time. Some reveals meant to evoke shocking surprise from the viewers fell a bit flat, while other reveals that weren’t so obvious could have been treated with a better setup for a more effective jolt. Often I felt like things were just being drawn out unnecessarily, and I thought the 126 minute film could have been tightened up to an hour and fifty minutes without losing the story.
Even something very basic to me seemed off… it was clear that Sally was pushing Jack and Victoria to do their jobs effectively and constantly monitored progress from the Tet. Victoria, feeling the pressure from Sally, was the middleman who sometimes shielded her sometimes-rogue partner’s antics from the boss (coddling his interest in old Earth relics, but never allowing herself to be sucked into it) and often pushed him to stay on task. At one point, Jack tells her he’s going to patrol in an area where the reception is bad and he’ll be radio silent. I expected him to get away with about 10-15 minutes before Victoria or Sally start getting antsy, but where he goes it is clear he’s been there before many times, and he has enough time to take a freakin’ nap without getting much flak for it.
The action scenes sometimes fall flat as well. I never felt much anxiety during them, never felt completely drawn in. Often I drew parallels to other movies. Morgan Freeman was, of course, the effective Morpheus in this story, allowing Jack to unfold the truth at his own pace, but I felt some interactions should have been heavier, weightier where others were too dramatic.
Go the the theater if you enjoy sweeping landscapes, watch it at home if you just like a decent movie on a Saturday night. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer: