Oblivion (2013) flows on cruise control

Oblivion movie review
Photo Credit: Oblivion / Universal Pictures
Tom Cruise has fought against everything from impossible missions to wars on worlds. I didn't know what more smackdowns the guy could do battle in. But then, there's Oblivion.

Fifty years after an alien invasion, Earth is abandoned except for Jack Harper. He's a space tech who lives high above our desolate planet with his assistant Victoria and fixes drones that are extracting the planets' resources.

He runs. He fights. There's God (Morgan Freeman), drones...Oblivion encompasses every dystopian trope imaginable. This monster of a flick opens with a narration explaining its' new world and then moves on with amnesiac flashbacks, an adequate love story, amazing combat sequences, impressive CGI, and a really long script to tie it all together.

Harper and his assistant make for an effective team, and sometime after they are complete with duties calling, they plan to join a new Earth and be replaced by other effective teams. But is Oblivion about Harper just doing this routine job making friends with drones? Why are these the only two people who are seemingly at work? Are there people still living on Earth even though it's been ravaged with radiation zones? Will we ever see this new Earth that Harper and his partner are bound to embark on after their tour is complete?

The story isn't affirmative on where it's headed. Harper makes for an interesting good guy but his voyage across Earth has no villain. There's no bad guy for Cruise to dismember or outgun. Harper is bound fighting against himself, and his plight only becomes more mysterious when an unknown space pod drops from the sky and its only survivor is a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who appears in his dreams.

For the first half-hour, it skids in one direction, and then for the next an entirely new place. Based on an unpublished graphic novel, it sure succeeds in world-building that I'm not sure most science fiction films dare to tread these days. Digging through the layers of the story, the production is wonderfully cinematic with astounding eye candy of landscapes on Earth and in space. But it's only after the billionth time Harper jumps into his flight ship, I jokingly questioned if he was off to find an ending.

The time length isn't necessarily a bad thing. We learn why Harper is the only mechanic the drones we respond to. We discover why Earth is the only home worth fighting for and to always remember the spares. It's one of those movies that starts with a wobbly first act but then over time grows more digestible. Piece by piece the plot rounds up to something mighty fine.

I was still left with some answered questions by the finale, and maybe my curiosities will be fulfilled upon a second viewing. The movie only takes a drawl 124 minutes to watch the first time. I have to question if I want to do it again for the sake of filling those voids. The interesting world and heavy-handed tale about humanity in Oblivion is a cool experience...it just may have to be enjoyed in pieces.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen Oblivion? What do you think?

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