Score: 3 stars (out of 4)
There is no killing Tom Cruise’s career, but it’s not for lack of trying. He’s made himself look like an out-of-touch lunatic by jumping on couches, starring in accidental viral videos promoting his bizarre religious beliefs, creepily marrying and impregnating former Dawson’s Creek starlets, and maybe worst of all, showing up in Rock of Ages.
Just as in his Top Gun days, Cruise is no stranger to going right into the danger zone. And with Oblivion he proves that, though the decades may have piled on the Cruise craziness, they haven’t worn away his ability to pick out solid action scripts and use them to veer clear of the seemingly inevitable crash and burn.
The movie is remarkable for the way it allows Cruise to patch together all the good memories to help wipe away the bad ones. He hangs from a cord like in Mission Impossible, throws down in dog fights like in Top Gun, goes comically shirtless for no reason like Cocktail, Risky Business, and pretty much every other movie he’s been in, and crashes a flashy ride like in Days of Thunder.
That’s not to say there’s nothing new. I’ve seen all of Cruise’s movies, but I can’t remember him ever turning around, seeing tons of fire rushing at him, then running and diving out of the way of the fire before it gets to him. He does that in Oblivion, which is odd because the movie is a sci-fi mind-bender that usually veers away from clichés like that.
It’s 2077. Humanity has fended off an alien invasion, but was too dumb to realize that doing so would render it a nuclear wasteland, forcing everyone to pack up and move across the solar system. Cruise plays Jack Harper, one of two people (the other is played by Andrew Riseborough) who are stuck behind to fix drones and help suck up the water and make out with each other inside floating moat-pools in the clouds.
Harper scoots around in male junk-shaped aircraft that is clearly a homage to The Ambiguously Gay Duo. He frolics with friendly drones that resemble Glados from the Portal games, re-enacts football games while wearing a baseball cap, shoots straggling invaders for sports and – as we’d all do – trolls for hot chicks locked up in cryo-chambers.
A pair of interesting twists come in to shake things up. You can sort of see both coming, and may well be thinking “Wouldn’t that be weird, and incredibly corny, if Thing X happened?” right before Thing X actually does happen. Also, Morgan Freeman comes along to do his Morgan Freeman thing, and a creepy, weird love triangle pops up (spoiler alert: hot cryo-chamber chick involved) to add a little Jersey Shore action into the mix. And even with that weirdness, the script still has enough brains to remind you of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix. And at one point, a little bit of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Not bad for a movie released during the pre-summer wasteland, which is usually as bleak as the scorched earth of Oblivion.
Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough and Melissa Leo. Written by Joseph Kosinski, William Monohan, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt. Directed by Kosinski. 124 minutes.