Tech 49, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), has a simple job to do: he must repair the drones that keep the water mining operation running on Earth in 2077. He works closely with his partner/lover, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), overseen by Mission Control’s Sally (Melissa Leo) via satellite. The couple exists in isolation, living in a state-of-the-art facility high above the corrupted earth below, and out of the reach radiation that resulted from the nuclear war of 2017. This is a world both ugly and beautiful as depicted by writer/director/producer Joseph Kosinski (Tron sequels), and it provides the backdrop for an above average spring blockbuster.
While I’m no Cruise fan (I think Minority Report is the last movie where he didn’t play his own image of himself), he throws a Hail Mary here, and comes up with an April touchdown. While the sci-fi premise here is a mashup of movies that we’ve seen before, like The Island, Independence Day, Armageddon, etc., the backdrop of the Earth as Kosinski sees it is terrific and there are enough twists and turns to make it more interesting than the trailer.
There are some twists I don’t want to give away, but the felt tension of Cruise’s Harper, as he begins to assess that the world around him isn’t what it seems, is pretty stunning. The audience doesn’t quite know either (this isn’t one of those films where we know and the protagonist doesn’t) but the sense of dread is nearly palpable. And even when the truth becomes evident, the film doesn’t let us off the hook: we’ve become invested in Harper’s survival, and the odds are not forever in his favor.
What becomes the takeaway for this mostly popcorn thriller is the way that each character deals with the truth when it’s revealed to them. Some people respond with a spasmodic denial, other people respond with begrudging, almost suspicious acceptance, some people have to search for the truth. But once they have the truth, each of them must decide what they’re going to do about it or with it: will they share it with others? will they hold onto it for their own benefit? will they hide it under a rock? In the same way, people have different responses to faith: some run to it and some run from it. And when they discover it and embrace it, the way they respond to their faith and share it with others (or don’t) says a lot about them and what they actually believe.
Oblivion isn’t “deep,” but with its twist and big picture questions, it’s worth seeing. You’ll be treated to a visual masterpiece, and explore the questions of our time from the view of space.