Review : Oblivion (2013)
"Earth is a memory worth fighting for."
Released (UK) 10th April 2013, Rated 12A. Runtime: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes).
Official Synopsis: A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
Red Corner Review, by Lisa
Added April 16th, 2013
In some ways I feel I was duped into seeing this film, even though I actually picked it. From the trailer, which I was thankful for once didn’t seem to give too much away, I decided that it all seemed very WALL-E but with people instead of animated robots.
Sometimes Tom Cruise gets a bit of hard time from people for some unknown reason – in general, however, tend to enjoy his films. Unfortunately, this movie I had mostly figured out before the title sequence. I say unfortunately because I was hoping I would be wrong, and there would be red herrings mixed with clever twists and turns – that never happened. Jack gives a little voice over introduction – it seems there was an attack on the moon, blown apart by some alien beings and then the earth went into chaos. Earthquakes and natural disasters ahoy! After this the aliens decided to invade and then the humans played nuclear card, leaving the Earth uninhabitable and radioactive. So everyone went to live on the Tet – a space station hovering above earth – while Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, was made habitable for the human race. Humans, we are told by Jack, have won the war. So before the words Oblivion even flash up I am already suspicious – it turns out I actually had ¾ of the film sussed already at this point.
So Jack is a technician who has been put on a wee numbered pod 47. There is him and his ‘effective’ team mate Victoria, a comms officer(new potential Whedon-wench material? played by Andrea Riseborough). They are also in a relationship and while she is happy with the staus quo and completing their mission, Jack is a wondering, pondering sort. The year is 2077 and Humans have been gone now for a while. Despite the fact that Jack is too young to have ever lived on earth, he seems to have these recurring memories/dreams about a beautiful woman that he once knew and feels like he has been to the New York of the past which he has only read about. There are two weeks left of their mission, and upon completion both Victoria and Jack are due to head off to join the rest of the human race on titan. So while she sits in the command tower he goes out on earth’s decimated surface and sorts everything out. The idea is that we humans have sent down massive machines that suck up earth’s water and make energy and that we need this energy for out new life out there in titan. But do we? Is this all a ruse? Well yes. Yes it is.
For some reason, later we find out as a ‘security measure’ everyone’s minds have been wiped five years ago. Another reason to be suspicious. No one is supposed to remember anything but Jack thinks he does. Victoria tells him to shush and get on with the mission. She does not ponder, she does not question. Enter ‘sally’ who is clearly not a real person and clearly just a computer programme generated video with a southern American accent. Victoria however thinks she is real and updates mission control in the tetra about all that is going on. The mission of pod 49 is to protect the water uptake machines from sabotage with the last of the ‘scavs’ scavengers and bad guys from the being race left on earth who try to destroy stuff. Jack and Victoria are not alone they are assisted by a number of drones which help to protect the hydro machines and kill off any scavs that are found. Only I suspect the Scavs aren’t the alien race but rather the human resistance.
One day on a mission to recover and repair a lost drone, Jack accidently falls into the remnants of the New York library. Here he falls down and loses his weapon and just when he is ambushed and almost captured by the scavs he is rescued by a drone. Sent by Victoria to look for him. When he leaves, he finds a book on the floor, Macauleys poems about Ancient Rome. He takes the book with him a long with a plant which he has found growing and has carefully watered. He gives this to Victoria in a wee tin pot and she throws it off the top of the tower. Suspicious of earthly poisonous toxins which may be lurking within. We see that jack is disillusioned. We know that Jack and Victoria are very different. I wonder at this point if they are robots. Especially when, despite his epic fall, Jack has very little evident bruising on his back in the pondering shower scene.
Where will this pondering and questioning lead? Well to the truth of course. After jack severs a scav off planet homing beacon a pod crash lands in his zone. He is ordered by ‘Sally’ to let the drones take care of it but curiosity gets the better of him and off he goes for a look. What he finds is a very old NASA pod has crash landed and there are human survivors in sleep mode containers. Soon the drones come along and blast them all… but what is this? Beautiful Bond girl Olga Kurylenko is the girl from the dream and she has crash landed right here. Of course Jack risks his life to save her. The drones recognise Jack as he is the one who fixes them and so they will not fire on him. He uses this to save Julia. We think this skill may prove useful for the rest of the film as its the second time we have seen this stand off between Jack and the drones. Victoria is shocked and angry when he brings Julia, in her in her life-pod, to their tower at pod49 in the sky.
When Julias wakes up she says the name Jack and then passes out. So we know she knows Jack. Relations between the three are strained over dinner and Julia keeps looking at Jack in a very knowing fashion. She persuades him to take her out to collect her flight recorder as this is the only way they will know what happens. Victoria is uncomfortable about this and lies a little to Sally to cover up for Jack. Meanwhile he and Julia reconnect and we find out that she is his wife and they have shared memory of him proposing on the empire state building, so his memories of this time are real. I had a bit of a problem with Olga in this film, she didnt seem expressive enough or convey much emotion that I think would have been in keeping with the charachter. For me she was very wooden leading me to question at points in the film, was this on purpose? was she in fact some kind of robot?
Back to the plot and before you know it they are captured by the scav’s who turn out to be humans (as I expected). They encourage Jack to go and find out the truth and he does just that. They want his help to send a drone bomb back to the tet and get rid of the evil beings after all. Everything Jack thinks he knows about the war and the human races fate is a lie, given to him by sally and the beings who tried to ruin earth, and are indeed succeeding. There is more as he soon finds out.
Victoria sends a ship after the homing becon is signalled. She becomes angry and jealous when she sees Jack and Julia hugging. Upon return to the pod in the sky Victoria is angry. She tells mission control and is terminated for her efforts. Mission control offers to reassign jack if he brings Julia back to the tet. They leave and go in the plane. They are chased by drones and crash. Jack runs off and meets himself! an exact copy of himself. He watches himself, in a another zone, doing the same job as he has always done. He is in fact just a clone. just one of many clones of the real Astronaut Jack and husband to Julia. He realises Julia has been wounded in the crash but Clone number two from a different district seems to recognise Julia too. Jack fights his bewildered fellow clone self.
He wins and then flies back to 51 pod in the sky. Here he finds a fellow 51 pod clone of Victoria. He tries to act normal as not to alarm her. He heads off after grabbing some medical stuff to save Julia. When he returns 51 clone has escaped his neck-chief fastenings( a clue that he too likes to collect human things and may also follow the path of self enlightenment Jack has pursued?).
Jack and Julia go to Jacks home made cabin in the woods. We assume they have sex but we do not know. Maybe those of us with dirty minds just think that. We of the dirty minds are prove right though at the end of the film. So back to the plot and Jack goes off, all full of the truth and knowledge now to assist the fellow humans with their fight against the Tet. Here is where the film really starts to drag, flail and come apart at the seams.
More Drones come and stuff gets blown up. Lots of humans die and Morgan Freeman is fatally injured. The drone Bomb is also broken in the cross fire. A new plan is needed to take the bomb to the Tesla. So Jack decides that he will take the bomb back to the Tet himself. Morgan freeman says that wont work as they will be suspicious and just ‘swat you like a fly’. Then Julia suggests she goes as a Trojan horse carrying the bomb and then they will activate it. So this is the plan. It soon becomes obvious, well to me at least that she isn’t in the pod. She has been carefully laid out back the cabin…. and low and behold I am correct.
So while jack journeys back to the Tet he listens to the flight recording of his original odyssey flight when they first encountered the Tet. He was flying and Victoria his co pilot. Lots of things they say to one another are repeated in this section by way of explanation for their origin and also as a means to suggest how routine bound we humans are. Something the machine- Tet- sally has bet on. So he enters the Tet and goes through to the landing bit, after sally threatens to blow him up and asks him why she should not? He says he wants Julia to live, and clearly so does Tet/Sally as she allows him to proceed, despite detecting, somehow that he was lying. Clearly she underestimates humans…. or it’s a massive plot hole…. hmm.
Well out of the pod creaks ol’ Morgan Freeman and together they press the button on the bomb. Boom goes the Tet. Evil is vanquished and humans of earth are free oncemore! We see Julia at the cabin with her child, presumably Jack’s aged around three. Then some people turn up and it’s the people from the human/scav compound. After three years they have found her and they have number 51 jack clone!! And he is now enlightened and in love. Even though he is a clone, he somehow realises he has come home and is in love and his eyes all fill up. The end.
Hmm. There were some good ideas and premises. They handled the ‘ we can’t go here because of all the radiation’ idea to stop them discovering one another quite well. One of the drone fight sequences felt like far too much of a Starwars nod for my liking. Though there was one appreciated small film nod to Top Gun with the aviator shades Jack picks up/rescues and adds to his human collection. The Blue corner is really the expert on bleak apocalyptic post war futures, so he may have more to say than I on this subject. I thought it was ok. It had a good idea and I was surprised by the clone angle, but I feel that everything else had already been seen and done before and so it became a mish mash of other films of the invasion/apocalypse genre. I feel in particular the cloning aspect, as well as other living alone in space ideas were much better handled in 2009’s Moon.
We are left wondering why they chose to clone jack and Victoria out of all the humans on earth and why they continued on doing so?. Morgan Freeman tells us they used Jack clones for the war against the humans. So presumably he made a good and effective soldier? Why then turn him into a maintence man with an ‘effective’ girlfriend on a mind wipe cycle? Particularly confusing was the behaviour of the Sally/Tet when they go in to the inner sanctum. Though it was perhaps good that we left the film not knowing what that the Tet thing was, who or what the beings are/were and from whence they came or went. I also wondered why does it take Jack 50 years of cloning to start to realise what is going on? So many many questions ( not in a good way) and not so many answers. Nothing new to offer.
I would therefore recommend to Switch off at the point where Jack is still in the Cabin and he decides to go back to help Morgan Freeman out. I say from here just make up your own ending. May it be bleak and apocalyptic or happy and cheery I think you will enjoy the film much better with your own imaginary ending.