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David James

Jack (Tom Cruise) cautiously approaches a drone in Oblivion.

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★★★★✩

Oblivion

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, and Olga Kurylenko

Rated PG-13

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Oblivion is the kind of movie that you would rather see without knowing anything about it. But why would you go see something unless you know it is good?

That’s the Catch-22: to see it, your interest must be piqued — they must give away something in the trailers to entice you to the theater. Yet on the other hand, if you’ve seen the trailers, in my opinion you’ve already seen more than I would wish to have seen beforehand. I’d rather they had saved some of the details from the trailer for the theater experience, to maximize the punch. Since it is easy to spoil this movie for you, I will keep the details to a minimum, while at the same time trying to convey enough information for you to make an informed decision about whether you want to see it.

The movie takes place in the year 2077, sixty years after Earth has suffered a global-scale destructive event that renders it a lifeless wasteland. Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, is a sort of traveling mechanic that services the security drones that protect energy plants. For a mechanic, he lives a rather jet-set lifestyle in a squeaky clean, translucent platform over the clouds, sharing quarters with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), a sexy redhead coworker with a British accent, who is both his boss and his lover. Jack has an über-cool flying contraption that looks like a cross between a helicopter and a dog toy, which will make many a flight aficionado drool. Jack and Vicky are alone on a desolate Earth, waiting for the two weeks that are left of their tour of duty to be over, so that they can leave and go home to outer space.

Once the premise of the movie is established, and we have been treated to plenty of eye-candy in the form of high-tech touchscreen tables and the flying dog toy’s acrobatics (I want one, by the way), the story starts to take life: dreams and memories start to blend with reality, the narrative starts challenging what we think we know, and things get downright weird. That is as much as I can tell you without ruining the movie for you. Twists in the plot are plausible, yet refreshing, and they hit a sweet spot in number and frequency: there are enough to keep you engaged, but not so many that they would hurt the plausibility of the narrative (remember thinking about The Game in hindsight?). Without telling you how they fit in the story, let me say that Morgan Freeman is simply magnificent and ex-Bond girl Olga Kurylenko is not bad at all.

Oblivion is a prime sci-fi movie, with the same satisfying mix of intellectual stimulation, fantasy, and action as in Cruise’s Minority Report. If you are into the sci-fi genre, you will want to see this film. The fantastic audio-visual special effects warrant coughing up the extra bucks to see this movie in the IMAX format. The story not only has plenty of futuristic fare, but it also has a good balance between romance and action, with a hint of philosophy, as the story makes you ponder the meaning of home and the nature of self. It is as original as it can be after over a century of sci-fi films. The restless mind will find connections with some predecessors, such as Moon, The Matrix, Total Recall, even The English Patient and, near the end, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Despite the eventual déjà vu, the movie is well rounded and satisfying.

All things considered, Oblivion is a high-quality, very entertaining sci-fi movie, and it is well worth your money and time. If you like the genre, I strongly recommend it.