Say what you want about Tom Cruise, but the man rarely makes a misstep on the big screen. No one’s perfect, but Tom almost always delivers in his work, which helped him survive his publicity nightmare a few years ago. He stumbled slightly this winter with Jack Reacher, which had its moments but had odd shifts in tone. Is he back on top with Oblivion? Unfortunately no. He hits the same middle ground as Jack Reacher.
Tom Cruise plays another Jack this time around. Jack Harper is a lone technician who still lives on a deserted Earth going around and fixing drones: machines that destroy scavengers (some kind of enemy to the human race). Everyone else has left Earth and now lives on a moon orbiting Saturn. So he’s kinda like Wall-E in human form. He works alongside Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, evoking Kate Winslet), who works as his communications officer, acting as his eyes on the ground and liaison with the “head office” (personified in the form of Melissa Leo sitting in a chair with a headset).
Oblivion takes its time building its story. It really wants to set up the circumstances of Jack’s existence and its surroundings. While it’s slow, it helps that the production values are absolutely top-notch. Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) keeps you guessing as to “how’d they do that?”.
The plot starts to shift into gear once a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko) shows up. Then the man himself, Morgan Freeman, shows up as Beech, a renegade human who is intrigued by Jack. Don’t be fooled by Morgan Freeman’s marquee billing and face on the poster. He shows up for maybe 10 minutes in total in this movie, but man, does he look good in those sunglasses. And he has a line that you’ll be quoting well after the credits roll.
Once the film starts to shift the players around in the film, it really starts to fall apart. It handles a couple of its twists well, but once things really get going in the third act, you’ll have way more questions than answers. The script doesn’t provide the context or motivations that started this series of events, and why must every sci-fi film become a 2001: A Space Odyssey derivative? Not every voice in space needs to sound like H.A.L.
Cruise is a charismatic hero as always, and he holds things together as best he can, but the script continues to crumble all the way to the end credits. Hopefully, this film will slip off Tom’s resume into oblivion.