Saturday, April 20, 2013

Movie Review: "Oblivion"

It's often said (and not just by me) that there are few, if any, original ideas left in Hollywood. That may be true, but I guess there are still unique combinations of recycled ideas, so all is not completely lost. Tom Cruise's new movie, Oblivion, mixes a little bit of Inception with a little bit of Blade Runner and maybe even a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As you might imagine, mixing disparate movies creates an end result that's a little bit foggy, but still compelling, entertaining, and maybe even a little heart-tugging.

It's the future. Much of Earth was destroyed in a war with the alien Scavs (Scavengers), who destroyed the moon, which led to tsunamis, earthquakes, and nuclear war. Those who survived were shipped to Titan, one of Saturn's moons. But Jack Harper (Cruise) remains on Earth, as he is assigned to repair the drones that patrol the barren planet in search of wayward Scavs. He lives with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his supervisor and girlfriend, in a cool house that would have left the Jetsons green with envy. Victoria takes orders from Mission Control (a menacingly friendly Melissa Leo, syrupy drawl and all), and she and Jack have only two more weeks until their assignment is done and they can leave Earth.

But Jack isn't your ordinary drone repairman. He keeps having flashbacks of a woman (Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko) on the observation deck of the Empire State Building that he can't quite figure out. He collects books when he can find them among the detritus of war, and he thirsts for any glimpses of the world they no longer have—he even does his repairs wearing a vintage Yankees cap. And one day on what seems like an ordinary repair mission, he sees a space capsule crash land, and the drones are hell-bent on destroying the crew. The one crew member he's able to rescue? The beautiful woman from his dreams, of course.

That rescue mission leads him into the clutches of a surprising band of people led by Beech (Morgan Freeman, complete with trench coat). Beech clues Jack into the fact that all is not what it seems to be—not his mission, not the war, not his girlfriend, and certainly not Mission Control. What's a guy to do?

Oblivion throws in a good number of twists and turns, some of which I'm still not completely sure about. But there are some pretty cool action sequences—Tom Cruise is an excellent pilot, as Top Gun fans should know all too well. It's a little more intellectual and introspective than a typical summer blockbuster, but it's a tad slower than it should be, and it doesn't know if it wants to be Armageddon or Planet of the Apes sometimes. However, Tom Cruise proves that, at 50 years old, he's still a credible action hero who can run (as is required in all of his movies), tumble, and fight just like he did back in the 80s.

This isn't a perfect movie by any means, but it's definitely an entertaining diversion that plays well on the big screen. And if anything else, it's a terrific appetizer to what appears will be a pretty sensational summer movie season.

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