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Oblivion

Year: 2013
Studio: Universal
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Producer: Peter Chernin
Writer: Karl Gajdusek/Michael deBruyn
Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell

To hell with the critics, you'll have a rollicking good time with this movie. It has thrills, spills, cool gadgets and a multilayered story behind first appearances that the hero has to unravel like a detective – even if it was the same tired corruption-starts-at-the-top/the-villains-are-really-heroes storyline you see any time there's an authority figure.

Many reviews complained that a lot of Oblivion was cribbed from far better movies, particularly Wall.E. The globe-like drone fighting machines with their array of scary metallic noises and weapons will actually remind you of the gadgetry in Pixar's last-robot-standing romance, but if you liked it there you'll respond to it here too. Sure it is Tom merely cruising instead of really trying, but it's fun sci-fi, not Shakespeare.

He plays Jack, part of a two-person team and the last humans left on Earth after a devastating war with aliens generations before. Jack's job is to fly the cool little one-man fighter/survey ship around the wasteland of America to defend the huge water processing plants offshore and repair the weaponised drones that deter attacks by the last remnants of the alien invaders. Jack lives with his communications/navigation operator and lover Victoria (Riseborough) in a groovy minimalist house among the clouds on top of a mountain, complete with launchpad and see-through pool.

Jack and Victoria are coming to the end of their tour and are due to join the rest of humanity aboard the Tet, a huge orbiting spacecraft that will take them all to the new colony on Titan.

But Jack doesn't want to leave Earth. While repairing a downed drone in the ruins of a stadium he walks Victoria through the triumphant final game played there. Occasionally he goes off the grid and retreats to his lakeside hideaway, furnished and appointed with all the things he loves about Earth from an LP player to a baseball cap.

He also dreams about a mysterious woman (Kurylenko) on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, and when a spacecraft crashes near the base that carries Julia – the very woman he's been dreaming about – in a suspended animation chamber, it turns Jack's world upside down and starts a search for who he really is and why he knows her.

It doesn't help that early on, Jack is stranded during a routine mission and captured by a band of rogue humans living underground (led by Morgan Freeman as their wise and enigmatic leader) who tell him that everything he knows about his home, the Tet, the drones and the war are lies.

The final third contains all the reveals, and a more cynical or pickier moviegoer will find issue with plenty of what goes on, but everything hangs together and reveals Jack, Julia and Victoria's true past, even the identify of Sally (Leo), their southern-accented handler aboard the Tet.

Like he did in TRON: Legacy, director Kosinski has a great sense of the image, and the scenes of Jack and Victoria swimming in the glass house with a storm brewing in the clouds below them are as beautiful as the bubble ship chases through canyons and desolate plains are thrilling.

Unlike in TRON: Legacy however, he has a solid story with a very adequate script to work with. The effects are brilliant (and contain less green screen than you imagine, often glass walls projecting images on real sets) and none of it's a stretch for actors of this calibre. It's far from brilliant, but it looks and sounds great. Does all sci-fi have to be about issues?

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