Sunday, April 28, 2013

Movie / Oblivion 2013

This newly-released Tom Cruise science fiction movie is much better than it seems at first. I could list off various scientific quibbles, but the cinematography is excellent. I'd put it on par with Looper.

According to the narrative, in 2017 Earth was attacked by aliens, who heavily damaged the Moon, causing earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed civilization. We won the war by using nukes, and drove off the aliens, but Earth was left uninhabitable due to radiation, while the surviving humans relocated to Titan, a moon of Jupiter.

Now 60 years later, Tom Cruise is one of a few members of a cleanup crew, a drone repairman, who keeps the drones in working order, which in turn defend the giant energy sucking machines, which are sucking up our entire Ocean, what is now left of it, converting it to energy, and beaming it up to Titan.

He lives a "good" life, in a luxury penthouse atop a pole maybe 1,000 feet off the ground, with a lovely female assistant, who acts as both his local mission control officer, when he's out on repair missions, and his bedmate. Both of them report to senior Mission Control on Titan.

But life is marred by the Scavs, surviving aliens who haven't yet been eradicated by the drones, who keep mounting guerrilla attacks on the mission, the drones, and the giant water sucking machines.

To protect the mission, in case of capture by the Scavs, both of them have had a memory wipe. The film's title, Oblivion, refers not only to the desolate state of Earth, but also to their lack of memory of what went before. Tom has dreams and flashbacks, but she is content to ask no questions.

In Tom Cruise fashion, his character is prone to violating the rules and doing crazy stuff, often putting him at odds with Mission Control. At one point I considered walking out; the whole thing seemed too predictable. But actually, his renegade flyboy behavior is critical to what comes next, his breaking out of the narrative, remembering who he is, and discovering what's really going on.

I won't spoil the story, but what's really going on is very complex and totally unlike the previously defined narrative. Don't step out of the theater around the halfway point! Once he figures out the true situation, he then takes heroic Tom Cruise-like actions to fix it.

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