In 2077, post-nuclear war, Earth is largely uninhabitable, sending survivors to live on one of Saturn's moons. Cruise's Jack Harper cruises the skies over the former New York City to guard giant water-sucking machines from attacks. He's aided in his daily missions by the watchful eye of Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, Disconnect), who works behind a giant iPad-esque desk in the safety of the home the two share in the clouds.
Oblivion's true plot doesn't arise until halfway through its pair of hours. That's so far in, however, discussing it would cross the line into spoiler territory. I'll say only that Morgan Freeman (Now You See Me) shows up, and I’m really only comfortable revealing that much because he's pictured on Universal Home Video's Blu-ray/DVD cover.
Still, don’t be surprised if you find yourself forgetting that fact because you’re so engrossed by the first half. It’s here where the movie stands strongest, as Jack and Victoria romp about their sterile-looking environs like carefree, sexual dynamos, and Jack risking his life daily to patrol the desolate wasteland of America that looks like the ending to 1968’s Planet of the Apes writ large.
All this is executed to a crashing, majestic score by electronic musician M83, and with a sleek production look that ... well, let's put it this way: If this had come out in 1977, like a certain sci-fi classic, I'd beg my mom to buy me the toys.
Overseeing this flawed but fruitful affair is wunderkind Joseph Kosinski in only his second sitting in the director’s chair. In having an actual story, Oblivion qualifies as a sizable leap above his debut with 2010’s TRON: Legacy. While I think he stands at quite a distance from being the next James Cameron as some have suggested, Kosinski is clearly on his way; in an age where special effects are so omnipresent, they rarely wow us, this one boasts several cool shots and sequences. (Naturally, these are what Blu-ray technology was invented to showcase.)
To compare the film to other A-list blockbusters of the genre, Oblivion plays like I Am Legend for its first half, then The Matrix for its second. See if you, too, find the I Am Legend portion working much better. —Rod Lott
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