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home : features : reel watchers April 29, 2016


4/22/2013 6:00:00 AM
Reel Watchers: Oblivion
Linda Tucker
Kingman Resident

First things first: This is not your typical high octane Tom Cruise movie. This is science fiction and there is action, but it isn't in every frame. Yes, he has the expected cool toys, a snappy helicopter/bubble ship, and a futuristic motorcycle that could have come from the Star Wars set; but at times this is a quiet, emotional movie.

Oblivion is set in post-apocalyptic dystopian Earth in 2077, after Earth has been attacked by aliens and devastated by war. The entire population has been relocated to one of the moons of Saturn. Jack Harper (Cruise) and his teammate Victoria (British actress Andrea Riseborough) operate an outpost responsible for maintenance and repair of the round smart-drones that patrol the planet to protect it from a group of freedom fighters called scavengers, or "scavs," led by Morgan Freeman. Jack and Victoria report to a "Hal"-like entity called Sally.

The first indication that all is not what it seems is the sort of false cheer emanating from Sally that gradually starts the hairs on the back of one's neck to stand up. Remember, this is not so much a war movie as a science fiction movie.

Jack had his memory wiped clean as he began this assignment, but gradually he begins to have memories he doesn't understand. He begins to notice a compulsion to collect souvenirs from his various travels about postwar earth: A Dickens' book, a stuffed bear, a baseball and mitt, and sunglasses. He tries to share his travels with Victoria but she shuts him down, quoting regulations. Victoria discourages Jack's curiosity.

Gradually the realization dawns that Sally is keeping secrets and all is not as it seems. Victoria starts to take on a Stepford Wife quality, and the interactions between Sally and Victoria get creepier as time goes by with the daily question asking if Victoria and Jack are an "effective team" and Victoria heartily agreeing that they are.

Then the surprises begin. When Sally orders Cruise not to investigate the crash of another ship nearby, Jack decides to check it out anyway. Without giving away important plot points, complications ensue.

National critics bemoan the movie's lack of originality, claiming concepts were borrowed from Wall-E, Tron, Attack of the Clones and other films. It was noticed particularly that some of the battle scenes were reminiscent of Top Gun.

Nonetheless, this is a diverting movie. Yes, there are explosions; yes, there is gunfire and skirmishes. The twists towards the end are shocking, and really, entertainment is what it's all about, isn't it? This isn't a life altering film, but it's worth a couple hours diversion.

It's worth three miners.

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