Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Oblivion (2013) ****

There are a lot of 3-star movies out there, movies that are decent and entertaining, but easily forgettable. It's a relief to see something that is truly amazing, that I won't have forgotten by this time next year. I didn't really have any expectations of “Oblivion,” but within ten minutes I had the feeling I was in for something special, and I wasn't disappointed.

Sixty years after an alien invasion, earth lies devastated by a war that the humans won, but which left most of the planet radioactive and uninhabitable. Humankind now lives on Titan (a moon of Saturn), and all that's left on earth are massive generators that suck up the water and turn it into the energy needed to sustain life on Titan. Jack (Tom Cruise) remains on earth as part of a small, skeleton crew of humans who maintain the generators and protect them from the remnants of the alien army, called Scavengers (Scavs). This is all Jack knows, as his memory and that of his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have been wiped, in case they are captured and questioned by the Scavs. Jack and Victoria live in a beautiful house, and their life doesn't look too bad. Jack actually likes what remains of earth, and he has troubling dreams of earth before the war and of a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko.)

Their world is shaken up when a mysterious beacon from the Scavs brings down a space capsule filled with human survivors. Then Jack is captured by the Scavs, and things get really crazy.

There is so much more I could say about “Oblivion,” but I don't want to spoil it. This is definitely one to watch. It's a tight, sci-fi thriller that starts out strong and doesn't let up. I like action movies, but let's face it, most of them are designed to capture an audience of 13-year-olds. You usually have to turn your brain off to avoid groaning at the lame dialogue and plot points. A 13-year-old could enjoy “Oblivion,” but it doesn't feel like it was written by one. The performances are nuanced (especially Andrea Riseborough's), the visuals are beautiful, and the director maintains a potent sense of menace. Tom Cruise doesn't generate the greatest emotional depth in this one, but he displays a consistent intensity that reminds us why he is an action star.

The director, Joseph Kosinski, is also the author of the graphic novel on which “Oblivion” is based. His only other film credit is “Tron: Legacy,” which I just added to my Netflix queue despite mixed reviews. For that matter, “Oblivion” only scored 53% on rottentomatoes.com. Some reviewers found it slow or thought there were holes in the story. I guess there's no point arguing over questions of taste. I found “Oblivion” to be entertaining and tightly-wound from beginning to end.

4 stars out of 5

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