Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99
Entertainment Movies

Tom Cruise, 'Oblivion' going nowhere, glacially ★★

Something's wrong. Tom Cruise, or, rather, Jack Harper, his character in the placid new science-fiction adventure "Oblivion," can't shake his dreams of a woman giving him the big eyes on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

It's 2077. Earth has been devastated by a war with invading aliens. Most of the remaining populace has been relocated to a Saturn moon. Jack has recently undergone a "mandatory memory wipe" and now goes about his work, a couple of weeks prior to his own exit from Earth. He's a security guard and all-around Mr. Fix-It living and working high above what's left of Earth's surface in Tower 49 with his lover/colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough).

But who is this woman in Jack's dreams? I mean, it's Olga Kurylenko, also starring in the new Terrence Malick film "To the Wonder," but who is she?

A sort of "Partial Recall," "Oblivion" gives you a lot to think about. And too much time to think about it. The script by Karl Gajdusek (an interesting playwright) and Michael DeBruyn, based on an unpublished graphic novel by the director, Joseph Kosinski ("Tron: Legacy"), weaves a tale involving governmental conspiracy, a revolutionary underground movement (Morgan Freeman plays the supercool head of the "scavs," or scavengers) and various pro forma battle scenes that pit Cruise, in his spaceship or on his futuristic motorcycle, against a cadre of scowling, moon-faced mechanical flying drones, equipped with machine guns stolen from "Attack of the Clones."

Jack knows something's up when his HAL-9000-styled boss, Sally (Melissa Leo, seen only on video monitors and oozing the sort of fake charm that spells trouble), orders him to stay away from a crash-landing site. Does Jack follow orders? No. He follows his instinct, and rescues the surviving member of the downed U.S. spaceship. She is the woman of his dreams, played by Kurylenko, and from there "Oblivion" springs a surprise or two.

"Surprise" is a relative term. Kosinski's rhythm and visual style are pretty square for such a squirrelly script: Each grave, purposeful exchange of dialogue (some of it pretty thick in terms of expositional back story) is laid out very carefully, as if we're idiots. The movie's not bad for a while, but it's made of spare parts from a lot of other movies, among them "Total Recall," "2001: A Space Odyssey," the "2001" riff "Moon," a certain recent play by Caryl Churchill (can't say; spoiler) and a few others.

What's interesting about it is its tight focus on a handful of characters. "Oblivion" is odder and less conventional than your average forgettable star vehicle; at times it feels like a five-character play taking place in a digital-effects lab. But there's not much energy to it. When you go to a futuristic, dystopian, post-apocalyptic barn dance starring Tom Cruise and his space guns, you expect a little zap with your thoughtful pauses.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Oblivion' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating:
PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language and some sensuality/nudity)
Running time: 2:05
Opens: Friday

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Who are the early Oscars 2014 favorites?
    Who are the early Oscars 2014 favorites?

    Now that Ben Affleck has shaved his good-luck Oscar beard, it's safe to officially close the book on the 2012-13 awards season so we can cast a small peek at the treasures that await. What will the best picture race look like? Here are 10 candidates (release dates may change): -- Glenn Whipp,...

  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years
    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also:...

  • Best movies of 2012
    Best movies of 2012

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips picks the top 10 movies of the year.

  • 'Oblivion'
    'Oblivion'

    Tom Cruise stars in "Oblivion."

  • Review: 'Merchants of Doubt'
    Review: 'Merchants of Doubt'

    Don't underestimate Robert Kenner's "Merchants of Doubt." It may sound like a standard-issue advocacy documentary concerned, as so many are, with the perils of global warming, but it's a lot more than that.

  • Review: 'Home'
    Review: 'Home'

    The cuddliest alien invasion movie ever, "Home" contains nifty turns of phrase and some actual, verifiable verbal wit, owing in large part to its source material, Adam Rex's 2007 children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday."

  • Review: 'Get Hard'
    Review: 'Get Hard'

    An awful lot of "Get Hard" depends on gay-panic humor of a weirdly squirmy and dated sort, making you wonder if this new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart mystery might best be viewed alongside reissues of "Cruising" and "Norman … Is That You?"

  • Review: '71'
    Review: '71'

    First performed in 1923, following an early chapter in that quaint, understated late 1960s-coined cycle of violence known as the Troubles, Sean O'Casey's play "The Shadow of a Gunman" imagined a crowded tenement house that becomes a microcosm of the Irish War of Independence. A key scene in...

Comments
Loading