Monday, April 22, 2013
There are those who won't go to any movie with Tom Cruise in it, and I have no problem with that. For those who'll see one if it's decent, check out "Oblivion," a well-constructed science fiction adventure with a script that's smart and satisfying.
Cruise's Jack Harper flies each day over the ravaged and desolated Earth of 2077, repairing the hydraulic units that pump all remaining water and the drones that patrol for "scavs," the aliens who lurk in shadows and continue to threaten mankind after invading and waging war on us decades earlier. He and his superior, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), report each day to Mission Control (an effectively menacing Melissa Leo, seen only on Riseborough's "Minority Report"-style interactive computer screen), but, although everyone has undergone a "mandatory memory wipe," he can't shake the image of a romantic afternoon on the viewing deck of the Empire State Building with a girl named Julia (Olga Kurylenko).
The filmmakers have used CGI to create a credible Future Earth of monuments amid nothingness, with fun technological gadgets and gizmos that further hold our interest. The story itself moves along crisply, with some clever twists that surprise in a good way. Yes, there are some laughable, even offensive moments, as when Cruise explains to a female astronaut (!) that everyone on Earth has been evacuated to Titan: "It's a moon of Saturn." But like "Jack Reacher," which I also recommended, "Oblivion" is about having a good time in the company of a movie star. For the first time in a long time, the built-in iconography (Harper flies around with a bobblehead of himself at the front of the cockpit) feels winky and endearing rather than Scientological and off-putting.