After starring as Jack in Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise takes on the role of another Jack — Jack Harper that is, a tech specialist in what remains to be the Earth’s mop up crew after a failed alien invasion in the sci fi thriller Oblivion.
Sixty years after Earth successfully warded off an alien invasion, leaving the planet almost uninhabitable, tech specialist Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are two weeks away from completing their mission to extract all of Earth’s remaining resources and rejoin the rest of humanity in Saturn’s moon Titan. While Victoria is anxious to leave the planet, Jack, whose memories prior to the mission were wiped clean by his superiors in case he is compromised, continues to feel that despite the devastation, the Earth is still his home. He is also haunted by the memories of a woman who appears in his dreams, a woman (Olga Kurylenko) he encounters face to face when he rescues her pod from a drone attack. When he and the survivor are captured by the “Scavs”, led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) and Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones), Jack discovers who he truly is what his mission entails. Now, it is now up to him to save the planet that he loves, along with what remains of species.
When I initially saw the trailer of Oblivion, I had high hopes about this sci fi offering. However, when I actually saw it, I felt a bit put out. While there was great cinematography and execution of the basic idea of the plot, I felt that the film just did not live up to its promise of an action packed sci-fi adventure. Rather, I felt like it was more of a sci-fi drama more than anything else.
For one, Oblivion proceeded at a snail’s pace, fleshing out its story, taking its sweet time moving along. It had a very contemplative vibe, bordering on depressing. In wanting the twist to be the main highlight of the film, the movie focused on the mystery of Julie haunting Jack’s dreams, Jack wanting to stay in Earth on his cabin, Jack in various scrapes that admittedly had passable stunts, and Jack doing whatnot. Okay, we get it. It’s Tom Cruise’s movie and he is the lead star. What’s next?
Finally, after the constant back and forth and a lot of speculation about what happened in the war (which took up over an hour of the movie), the truth is revealed and the final 25-30 minutes or so proceeds at a much faster and action packed pace. While it was not in the magnitude of what I had expected for a big popcorn movie like this, I was thankful that there was at least a stab at moving things along.
On the positive side, the film took inspiration from some sci-fi greats like Star Wars in terms of design and stunts. The drone chase was similar to Luke Skywalker’s epic fighter plane sequence in the Empire Strikes Back. Some of Jack’s gadgets even looked like R2-D2. In terms of the set, I must give credit to the production for the details in the set pieces. The majority of white in the setting also lent an air of surrealism to Jack’s life in the Mission Tower in contrast to desert trails and wilds that remain of Earth, which effectively distinguishes the two worlds that Jack treads.
All in all, Oblivion had great potential, had it not been for the pacing. I think that given the story, the film would have benefited from reduced scenes and a real focus on the bigger picture rather than Jack’s personal dilemmas. In the end, it just seemed like the movie was a drama disguised in sci fi setting. Even the ending seemed kinda meh.