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Movie Review: “Oblivion”

Apr 192013
 By , April 19, 2013

Oblivion, Tom Cruise

“Oblivion” — a film review by Gary Chew

The only thing there’s more of in the IMAX movie “Oblivion” than mind-blowing computer-generated imagery are cliches. But the CGI and the, sometimes, almost deafening sound effects and music are worth the watch and listen.

This elaborate production — written and directed by Joseph Kosinski —  has similarities with a less grandiose space movie from 2009 called “Moon,” directed by Duncan Jones. In either futuristic yarn, this device is used: there appear, on screen, two men who are the same person simultaneously.

In “Oblivion,” it’s Tom Cruise (Jack); in “Moon” the two men seen at the same time are Sam Rockwell. And in each movie, both pairs — or should I say all “four” (?) — have been duped by the controllers of these future days of the universe that play out in close proximity to a planet called Earth.


Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise in “Oblivion.”

Jack is the luckier hero, however. He has two beautiful women to be isolated with in “Oblivion” in his high-rise penthouse of luxury that sits in the clouds, miles and miles above this orb of ours that spins in a state of irradiated ruin due to decades of savage war. Less fantastic, “Moon” underscores isolation more, and was done on a smaller budget, while providing a larger takeaway.

Cruise’s Jack zooms away daily in a nifty space vehicle from his nifty digs to repair downed drones. He’s macho, you know, but quietly commanded by his eye candy roomie, Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough. Victoria takes orders from another woman played by Melissa Leo, who decides if drones are to be dispatched to the surface of what’s left of Earth. Leo’s character is seen and heard only on a scratchy video signal from the mother controller headquarters that’s ensconced at an even higher altitude than Jack and Victoria’s residence.

So far, their mission has been to aid in the extraction of the planet’s remaining resources, then …

Jack and Victoria, in about two weeks’ time, will be discharged from their duties and proceed to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, where, these days, people go since Earth is so toxic. The couple is a working team and looks forward to a new life together; at least so far as recall allows, since both are subjected to occasional “memory wipes intrusions” by their superiors.

Memory plays an important part in how the film surprises.


Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman.

On one of his forays down into the dangers of the surface, Jack saves a lone survivor from a crashed ship. She’s the other beautiful woman. Her name is Julia (how Orwellian!). Olga Kurylenko has the role.

But wait, in the prologue to “Oblivion” we see Jack and Julia up, no — not the hill, but atop the Empire State Building where Jack proposes. New York City and the tall building are still intact, by the way.

What’s the deal? Something tells Jack that Julia, whom he’s found in deep Delta Sleep sealed in a pod that escaped damage in the space ship crash, is more than just that … and he, personally, is a part of whatever it is he can’t quite remember. And strangest of all, Jack has had dreams of Julia before he sees her the “first time” locked in the pod.

Then there are the Scavs, first seen in the film, all in black and Darth Vaderish. What are these guys up to? More is revealed as the story swishes and roars forward in all its relentlessly astounding visuals, laser zaps, explosions and pulsing, loud music (ears may require finger-plugging, intermittently).

Perfect as the Scav boss is Morgan Freeman, a nefarious-looking, revenge-stoked fellow named Beech. His brigade of future terrorists indicates that Jack and Julia are in deep 2077 doo-doo.

Marketing concepts are rife in “Oblivion.” The drones are an ironic violence, yet comic relief. Oh, the videos games to follow, because, at some moments, the drones are kind of … cute, even the ones that spin out of control and smash themselves to an IMAX oblivion.

That’s all, folks.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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