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Tom Cruise visits a post-apocalyptic Earth, and the result is without question the best sci-fi flick of the year...
Universal / 124 Minutes / 2013 / Street Date: August 6, 2013
There’s no question that Oblivion trips over itself, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and stacked up next to any other cinematic endeavor of calendar year 2013, this hefty, striking post-apocalyptic space actioner most certainly holds its own. This writer felt pangs of regret as the movie sputters through needlessly exposition-heavy plot points in its last half-hour, but as Tom Cruise’s latest begins and settles in, it’s a perfect blend of big-budget escapism and otherworldly head-trip.
It’s easy to hold a grudge against Cruise as a Hollywood figurehead – he seems to go out of his way to let his celebrity make a tabloid jackass of him - but movies like Oblivion provide continued evidence that the dude knows how to anchor an intergalactic tale like this one, and even if he plays ‘Tom Cruise’ yet again, he gives it his all: Oblivion doesn’t make it easy to love Cruise, but he and his cohorts make the surrounding dramatics so irresistibly engaging that you hardly notice.
I heard it from many of my colleagues before entering into the Thunderdome of Oblivion, and while it’s a cop-out to a certain degree, it’s fair to say that the less you know about the movie going in, the more you’ll take out of it. Knowledge set forth in the movie’s effective trailer establishes Jack Harper (Cruise) as a mechanic of sorts, a man hired to keep up with a collection of drone facilities on a seemingly abandoned Earth. He has a ladyfriend (Andrea Riseborough), and orders that the two of them are slated to leave the planet and join other humans at a colony on Titan in two weeks, but things go wrong…
If you think about Oblivion too much, it fades to dust, but where so much action fare in cinemas this year have been airheaded to an extreme, the fact that there’s even a marginally laudable ethos under this film’s hood is nothing short of an inspiration. The screenplay could have used another pass, and the narrative defaults to cliché that populate its final reel are needlessly pedantic, but with a bitchin visual scope and a story that keeps you guessing, this latest Cruise vehicle is a summer standout: it has pock-marks all over it, but I think I love it all the same.