Oblivion (2013)

Rating: In the words of my 14-year old grandson, Connor, and his friend Dylan,
“We both kinda liked it, but we didn’t understand any of it.”

OblivionWhat in the hell was this movie about, anyway? Taking place on Earth in 2077, some of the visual effects are fun to watch, although they become a tad bit repetitive.

After all, how many times can you watch drones repeatedly attack enemies that become friends, not to mention Tom Cruise having a splendid fight with himself? In Mr. Cruise’s case, that part of the film must have appeared to be emulating his life off screen.

As noted, it would be hard to give away the plot since it would take a short seminar to understand it. Earth appears to be largely destroyed from a nuclear war with some nasty aliens, and it “seems” that the survivors of the human race have been transported to a large orbiting space vessel. In the process, Mr. Cruise (again playing a guy named Jack) and his co-worker, Victoria, played with a bit of laconic style by Andrea Riseborough, are assigned as a mop-up crew to help divert Earth’s water supply to the orbiting vessel.

However, who was who and what was what was almost too befuddling to grasp in the theater. It was almost as if the old Abbott and Costello’s classic comic routine entitled “Who’s on First” was made into a futuristic film.

Though Cruise and Riseborough are assigned to kill suspected aliens thought to be tromping around the planet, they are thrown for a loss when they discover a group of humans led by Morgan Freeman. To make matters worse, Cruise suddenly discovers a beautiful human who mysteriously lands in a coffin-like space capsule. He has repeatedly dreamt of her, and if you saw the previews, you know that he repeatedly yells, “Who are you?”;

Olga Kurylenko plays Julia, the strange woman who has landed back in Cruise’s life. What if they had once been married, but Cruise is actually dead? What if he has been recreated as multiple clones with a haunted memory of his human past? What if the only humans who exist remain on Earth and not on the space ship? What if your attempts to understand this drove you to drink heavily after leaving the theater?

Again, the movie is a blasted enigma that holds your attention simply because you hope that Director and Screenwriter Joseph Kosinski will finally have the courage to tell you what you are watching. Morgan Freeman seems to be emulating Liam Neeson by appearing in sophomoric action films. Think of him here as the character Beech and his recent role as the Speaker of the House in Olympus Has Fallen.

Cruise is another matter, and something has truly taken his career out of any artistic significance. While this film will make some dollars at the box office, it is really no more intriguing than his last endeavor, Jack Reacher.

Something is uncomfortably wrong with Mr. Cruise, and his continual inability to get close to female characters he allegedly loves is far more telling than what Cruise chooses to say. Come on, Tom, belly up to the public bar, as no one in this country really cares anymore.

On the other hand, I’ve got to admit that I am fascinated by Ms. Kurylenko, a Ukranian-born actress who must make some of her older female competitors weep with envy. I loved her performance in Seven Psychopaths as much as I loved the movie. She really was quite good in Quantum of Solace (2008), a Bond film where she played opposite Daniel Craig. Finally, hunt her down opposite Timothy Olyphant in Hitman (2007), where her nude appearance on a hotel balcony as seen through some flowing curtains will curdle most male observers’ blood.

Finally, the great Melissa Leo has a role confined to a computer screen as she represented the alleged humans on the spacecraft. But even her efforts do not suffice to allow Oblivion to outrun its shortcomings. I can only tell my grandson and Dylan to not be overly concerned, as I really didn’t understand this film either.