Tom Cruises faces an uncertain futire in sci-fi saga Oblivion

by Mark Burger

Tom Cruise makes one of his rare forays into futuristic folly in Oblivion , but judging by the middling result maybe he should have sat this one out.

The year is 2077 and Earth’s landscape has been decimated by an interplanetary war. With the surviving population now residing (unseen) offplanet, Cruise’s Jack Harper patrols the Earth (or what’s left of it) looking for signs of life and waiting for the day that he and wife/patrol partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) can join the rest of humanity.

Jack and Victoria’s hi-tech surroundings are so perfect and pristine that, surely, something must be amiss. And surely it is, despite the ostensibly soothing orders dictated by their supervisor, Sally (Melissa Leo). On a routine patrol, Jack encounters a band of hearty Earthlings who live underground and are led by Beech (Morgan Freeman in wisesage mode). Jack soon realizes he’s been living a lie — both figuratively and literally — and it’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose. Given the film’s stodgy pacing, it can’t happen soon enough.

Cruise is appropriately earnest under the circumstances, as are Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko as the ladies in his life — the latter having a direct tie to Jack’s past. Freeman brings his usual gravitas to the proceedings, but behind those imposing shades even he seems a little bored. In any case, he fares better than Leo, whose occasional glimpses on a video monitor are hardly conducive to fashioning a menacing character. If you thought they had little to do in the recent shoot-’em-up slugfest Olympus Has Fallen, they have even less to do in Oblivion.

The film strives so mightily to be profound that it stubbornly refuses to engage, either on an emotional or visceral level, although it is extremely well made. Despite some interesting plot twists and an assemblage of science-fiction inspirations (including but not limited to James Cameron, Stanley Kubrick, “Star Trek,” Phillip K. Dick and, yes, L. Ron Hubbard), Oblivion is a curiously flat, hollow experience. The future just isn’t fun.