Review: Oblivion

I think it’s a fairly well established fact at this point that the kids are no longer down with Tom Cruise. The scientology, the notorious Oprah appearance, and the fact that he hasn’t starred in a movie worth watching since “The Last Samurai” mean that Cruise is at this point without doubt, an actor in decline. Recently, there have been attempts to resuscitate his flagging career, with movies like “Jack Reacher,” “Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” and “Valkyrie”, attempting to blow the dust off a gung-ho image left over from the “Top Gun” days. In his latest military/sci-fi adventure, “Oblivion,” Cruise plays Commander Jack Harper, one of the last remaining men on earth. Sound a little too familiar? You don’t even know the half of it.

As I’ve mentioned, “Oblivion” stars Tom Cruise as Jack Harper alongside Andrea Riseborough as Victoria Olsen. Jack and Victoria are soldiers stationed in Sky Tower 49, a military outpost in Earth’s surface, 60 years after an alien invasion that shattered the Moon and nearly destroyed the planet. They are charged with repairing automated drones that exterminate the remaining alien scavengers, or Scavs, hidden on Earth. Jack and Victoria report to Sally (Melissa Leo), a military commander stationed in a tetrahedral structure in Earth’s orbit called “The Tet”; which controls the hydro rigs, machines that are extracting vital resources from the surface, and are being targeted by the Scavs.

As earth-stationed personel, both Jack and Victoria have had their memories wiped for security reasons. Though he cannot remember anything specific, Jack often has dreams of a mysterious woman. He is fascinated by Earth’s culture before the invasion, storing random objects he finds in a cabin near a lake. Victoria, on the other hand, doesn’t care for what’s below and prefers to live in Sky Tower, awaiting the end of their assignment and their return to a human colony in Saturn’s moon Titan.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “Oblivion” showcases the same penchant for superfluous visual effects as his previous venture “Tron: Legacy.” On the plus side, the drones are intimidating and somewhat ominous, but on the negative side, the entire film is irritatingly airbrushed, and tries in vain to create an I Am Legend-esque atmosphere of foreboding emptiness.

It seems really that the only genre churning out anything much in the way of original content these days is science fiction. “Inception,” “Avatar,” “District 9”and“Super 8” are just a few examples of original and well-crafted sci-fis which have hit our screens in the last ten or so years. It seems only natural then that studios would cast Tom Cruise in a film which seeks to cash in on audiences’ love of challenging and innovative science fiction. Ultimately however, “Oblivion” proves to be little more than a sad reflection of the career of a once celebrated actor; hackneyed, contrived and generally a waste of time.

2/5 stars

Daniel McDonald

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