In Oblivion, the year is 2077: Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) braves Earth's barren wasteland 60 years after an alien race destroyed the moon which lead to global catastrophes and eventually, nuclear annihilation. Dressed in all white, armed with cool tech, Jack and his gal Vika (Andrea Riseborough) are the last ones left at Post 42. Writer-director Joseph Kosinski delivers a sci-fi adventure with the same world-building coolness he brought to his previous feature, TRON: Legacy.
Morgan Freeman, and Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau show up too, donning ready-to-wear Road Warrior black intent on a rebellion. The music by M83 is full on electronic like Daft Punk's score was for Legacy.
Jack yearns for an Earth that was. Like WALL-E, he even puts tiny plants in pots, but the primary job is maintaining smart drones that gather whatever resources are left on the planet. In two weeks, a better life awaits on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, where the rest of humanity has already traveled. But before Jack's mission is complete, he—like WALL-E—finds his own EVE among the rubble: a gal in hyper-sleep named Julia (Olga Kurylenko).
Up for some sci-fi action? Here are five things to know before venturing into Oblivion's brave new world:
1. See it in IMAX: Before Kosinski started making films, he was an extremely talented artist of conceptual architecture. Jack's home of steel and glass springs up above the clouds is like a futuristic beanstalk. On the planet's surface expansive vistas of humanity's remains are awe-inspiring. A cracked football stadium hides an underground playground that Jack must escape. A small cabin where Harper stores all his 20th-century trinkets is great eye candy too. Nearly every scene is designed as minimalist detail on an immensely grand scale lensed by cinematographer Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi).
2. Techy Elements Impress: Vika's keyboard is like the ultimate Microsoft Surface. She talks to her boss Sally (Melissa Leo) via onscreen prompts. Jack flies a white spaceship that can turn on a dime and comes with a matching motorbike. Their home is decked out with glass walls featuring illumined heads up displays. The only hiccup are the glitchy drones which sometimes take too long to decide whether to "assist" or "terminate" Jack. Perhaps, a firmware update is available?
3. Cruise Still Has the Need for Speed: When Cruise shoots action scenes, he always goes the extra mile, even if that mile is vertical on the world's tallest building. His Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol skyscraper sequence won't be topped anytime soon, but a chase with Cruise piloting that cool quick-turning spaceship while evading those flying bowling ball drones is just the right amount of Top Gun. He's still a maverick.
4. Olga Kurylenko, Dream Girl of Cinema: Ever since being one of the few memorable parts of Quantum of Solace, Olga is popping up everywhere. Last year, she had a tiny part as Sam Rockwell's main squeeze in Seven Psychopaths. Last week, she was the object of Ben Affleck's affection in To the Wonder. The Ukrainian-born actress is catnip for the screen, but still doesn't talk much. Though, to be fair, no one really says much of anything in To the Wonder. In Oblivion, her role is similar to the one Penelope Cruz played opposite Cruise in Vanilla Sky.
5. Secrets...Sort Of: Memories of the Empire State observation deck? Morgan Freeman leading a rag tag group of human rebels left behind? The script is overstuffed with allusions to previous sci-fi flicks: The Matrix, Blade Runner, Twelve Monkeys all well-executed, but the sense of déjà vu is akin to Jack's own dreams. The suspense builds—why is Jack's suit marked 42?—but the answers are a bit of a letdown.
(E! and Universal Pictures are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)
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