Tom Cruise Gets to Fight With Himself
Films set in post-apocalyptic settings are a Hollywood favorite. In animation, you have works such as Akira (1988); in live action films, the "Planet of the Apes" collection; in television, Steven King's "The Stand." "Oblivion" (2013), directed by Joseph Kosinski and written by Joe Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt, is the most recent addition to this science fiction oevure, featuring Tom Cruise right after his own apocalyptic divorce from Katie Holmes (it was filming during that breakup). The film that "Oblivion" most resembles, though, is the recent animated classic "WALL-E."
|Jack looking out from his tower|
It is 2077, some sixty years after aliens known as the "Scavengers" attacked earth. The resulting battle left the aliens in possession of the planet, destroying civilization and forcing the remnants of humanity to flee to a large space station known as the "Tet." Jack Harper (Cruise) is stationed on the planet to remove useful items from earth for use in a colony on Saturn's moon Titan. Jack lives with his girlfriend Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) in a tower high above the planet's surface, where he maintains airborne drones that battle the Scavengers and protect the machines doing the mining.
|Victoria communicating with Sally at Tet|
Their commander on Tet, Sally (Melissa Leo), communicates with them via video link, and Jack and Victoria only have two weeks left before they leave for home. As part of their mission, they have had all memories of their past removed.
|Jack on a mission|
Jack has disturbing nightmares about a woman at the Empire State Building before the Scavenger invasion. He retreats periodically to a cabin on a lake which he has stocked with human relics he has found. One day, a spaceship, the "Odyssey," crash-lands on the Earth's surface. It carries hibernating passengers, one of whom, Julia (Olga Kurylenko) Jack manages to save from the Scavengers, the others being killed. Julia, Jack realizes, is the woman from his dreams. From the ship's wreckage they recover the log, but Jack and Julia then are captured by Scavs. They are humans living in an underground fortress, led by Malcolm (Morgan Freeman).
|Jack running on Earth|
Malcolm argues that there are no "Scavengers" and that the true enemy is the people living in Tet. In order to free earth from Tet's domination, Malcolm wants Jack to blow it up with a nuclear bomb. Jack refuses, but Malcolm allows him to leave with Julia anyway, explaining that Jack will learn the truth from restricted zones near where he lives. After leaving, Jack and Julia climb the Empire State Building. At the top, Julia claims that she is Jack's wife, and that the Empire State Building is where Jack proposed to her. Julia explains that she is a NASA astronaut. Victoria, meanwhile, sees Julia and gets upset, so Sally activates a killer drone that kills Victoria but is shot down by Julia.
|Jack looking out over Earth|
Fleeing, Jack and Julia escape to the radiation zone mentioned by Malcolm. They meet "Tech 52," a clone of Jack, who Jack defeats in battle. Julia is wounded during the battle, and they take the clone's ship to another tower that is just like his own, complete with a carbon copy of another Victoria. Returning to Malcolm, Jack learns that he is a clone himself, of an astronaut from before the Scavenger invasion. Furthermore, there is no colony on Titan, and Tet is actually an alien being. Jack is but one of thousands of clones being used by Tet to pillage Earth, and the drones he maintains actually are used to eliminate human survivors.
|Jack and his ship|
Jack concludes that Malcolm is telling the truth, so he assists in preparing a drone to fly to Tet and destroy it with a nuclear weapon. Sally, meanwhile, comes looking for him, programming three drones to kill him. The drones attack Malcolms's base with devastating results, severely wounding Malcolm. Julia suggests that Jack deliver her to Sally as ordered, since Sally now wants to clone Julia as a work partner for Jack. Listening to the flight recorder from the "Odyssey," Jack learns that his original self was the astronaut who went to investigate Tet on the Odyssey with Victoria as his co-pilot. As a ship designed to colonize Titan, the Odyssey carried Jack's wife and colleagues in hibernation, and it remained in space after Jack's capture by Tet's drones.
|The tower where Jack lives with Victoria|
Returning to Tet, Jack sees that it contains numerous clones of himself and Victoria. Sally is an alien disguised as a human. Instead of Julia, Jack has brought Malcolm in the hibernation capsule along with the nuclear weapon. He detonates it, destroying the three of them, Tet, and all the alien drones on earth. Years later, Julia gives birth to a child, and humanity begins to rebuild.
|Malcolm interrogating Jack|
"Oblivion" references several classic science fiction films. The most obvious is Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey, with the name of the ship and references to life on a moon of Saturn. The idea of a ravaged Earth being tended by an isolated couple clearly echoes "WALL-E," which itself is often mentioned as resembling "2001." The script comes from a graphic novel written by Kosinski and Arvid Nelson, and was picked up by Universal Pictures after Disney decided it was too edgy for their family oriented reputation. Tom Cruise liked the script and fought for the part.
|Malcolm is played by Morgan Freeman|
Because Tom Cruise is a bigger international star these days than he is in the United States, "Oblivion" opened overseas a week before it premiered in the United States. It generally was received positively, and did well at the box office, earning back more than its budget in its first few weeks. The biggest complaints were with the script, but Cruise himself received a lot of praise for his performance. It marked a welcome comeback for Cruise, whose previous two films had not done well at the box office.
Below are the official trailers for "Oblivion."