Oblivion is a thoughtful work of science fiction. Set in a high-tech, post-apocalyptic future, the characters are compelling and the story is engrossing. There are more than your average share of plot twists, and therefore it's challenging to say something meaningful about the movie without revealing too much. While the resolution of some of the storylines is not wholly satisfying, the journey en route to the film's destination is an interesting and memorable one and hence, overall, it's a good movie - the kind that will have you thinking, for better or for worse, days later.
It's the year 2077. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), aka Tech 49, and Victoria "Vika" Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) are two of the last people on Earth. As Jack explains, Earth was attacked by aliens, known as "Scavs" (short for Scavengers), circa 2017. The Scavs initially destroyed the Earth's moon, which unleashed cataclysmic natural disasters. In desperation, we humans responded with nuclear weapons. We managed to stave off the Scavs, but the conflict laid waste to our entire planet in the process. The vast majority of Earth was rendered uninhabitable.
In the aftermath, much of our population migrated to Titan, one of Saturn's moons. The remainder of Earth's former population is in a space station, called the "Tet", awaiting their turn to venture to Titan.
Jack and Vika live and work out of an elegant living quarters floating in the sky high above the remains of what was once New York City. In addition to being lovers and life partners, the couple functions as a team responsible for the maintenance of a modest army of flying drone robots. Jack does all the field work while Vika interfaces with the powers that be on the Tet and provides other computer-based assistance from what amounts to a home office. The drones, in turn, protect - primarily from the remaining vestiges of the Scavs - a small set of valuable assets known as hydrorigs which harvest energy from the Earth's ocean.
The presence of the drones in the story feels especially apropos given the recent debate surrounding the proper role of military drones. But, thankfully, the plot does not seem to be trying to send any heavy-handed messages; rather it's, rightfully, focused on providing a compelling story.
The tour of duty for which Jack and Vika signed up is a five-year stint. With only two weeks remaining, the couple, especially Vika, is looking forward to returning to the Tet and leaving, soon, for Titan.
While Vika is and always has been satisfied with their situation, Jack has recurring moments of doubt. In particular, both Jack and Vika had their respective memories "wiped" at the beginning of their mission for "security" reasons. Yet, Jack is "haunted" by images and dreams which seem to hint at some nebulous part of his past. He senses that, in some way, things are not as they seem...
That's what I reasonably can say about the plot without going too far. The other point worth mentioning is that Oblivion has a strong supporting cast in the form of Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (better known as Jamie Lannister from HBO's Game of Thrones).
Viewers will likely notice similarities to several science-fiction predecessors including: 2001 - A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, The Terminator, and another, more recent film which I would be remiss to mention due to some of the plot implications. Nonetheless, the story is not overly similar to any of these movies. The creators have crafted a film which stands nicely on its own and only benefits from whatever similarities may exist.
The visual effects in Oblivion are another memorable part of the movie, especially the ones involving Jack's one-man ship and the sky house he shares with Vika. Some of the shots are simply beautifully done. I wouldn't call them "stunning" and they certainly are not the CGI-for-CGI's-sake kind of special effects seen in some of today's movies. Instead, these scenes are futuristic and high-tech, but in a subtle and stylish way that perfectly complements the story.
All things considered, there's a lot to like about Oblivion...