'Oblivion' Review: Cruise Stars In Smart, Sincere Sci-Fi Epic

Though I knew it was a relatively successful sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise, one of the few stars who still knows how to pick good scripts, other than that, I went into director Joseph Kosinski’s “Oblivion” unaware of what it was all about. What a pleasant surprise to discover an intelligent sci-fi film filled with humanity and intellectual ambition.

The year is 2077 and Earth has been devastated by an alien invasion. The few surviving humans live in a space colony kept alive by fusion power generated by giant stations that require millions of gallons of sea water. Jack Harper (Cruise) is Tech 49, a worker bee who uses a very cool ship to patrol what was the American Northeast. His job is to repair the deadly drones that protect the stations from “scavs,” the remaining aliens that still cause trouble.

Jack and his partner and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) enjoy a lonely, rote existence with Earth pretty much all to themselves. By day they work; by night they live in a magnificent home that floats high above the danger in the clouds.

Though his memory has been wiped for security purposes, Jack still dreams of Earth before the war, which he is too young to have been familiar with. He also dreams of a wife he has never met. With only two weeks left of their tour of duty, Jack and Victoria watch the clock until they can go home. A spaceship crash changes their plans and much, much more.

“Oblivion” has a ton of sincere heart, which is refreshing in an era marked by ironic distance. The story also explores big themes involving humanity and conformity. This approach took me completely by surprise and made the experience of watching the film a real journey as the ideas kept broadening. In this respect, “Oblivion” reminded me of Cruise’s criminally underrated “Vanilla Sky.”

Whether “Oblivion” is completely successful in its ambitions, I can’t yet say. I want to see it again, and that is something I’m looking forward to.

“Oblivion” arrives on Bluray August 6, and is available for preorder at Amazon.com.