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“Oblivion”: More Clever Than I Expected

Like many Tom Cruise vehicles of late, Oblivion seems to have come and gone with little fanfare. Indeed, I was surprised to see the DVD on a stand at the grocery store last week – I didn’t know it had already come out and been (ironically) consigned to its titular state.

Which is unfortunate, because it’s actually one of the better movies I’ve seen in the past year. I won’t describe it in detail so as not to give away the numerous Serling-level twists in the story, but suffice to say that it’s entertaining and worth watching. The special effects are impressive, as is the futuristic creative design (the “tower” sets in particular). The bulk of it appears to have been filmed in Iceland, which amused me – anyone who has done the Laugavegur hike or visited Jökulsárgljúfur National Park will recognize much of the post-war New York City. The story premise and various gimmicks were clever and believable, and the leads (Cruise, Riseborough, and Kurylenko) delivered respectably layered performances (particularly Riseborough as Victoria, with her tragic subconscious dread of discovering the truth).

There were shortcomings, including Morgan Freeman as Morgan Freeman’s Usual Character, the typically improbable Armageddon-refugee-chic costumes, the colorful but unlikely depiction of the Moon, and the oops-we-forgot-about-lightspeed moment near the end. But on the bright side, unlike Elysium  and pretty much any movie of late, Oblivion is pleasantly free from obvious political preaching and product placement. No, really…there’s no blaming humanity for the war, no contrived subplots about racism or homophobia, no moralizing about the environment or capitalism, no anti-human ruminations on just how depraved and awful and evil humanity really is, no risible rodberrification of contemporary social issues, no tendentious illustrations on the dangers of technology. Which is nice. For a change.

Overall, Oblivion has the same feel as far as production, performance, and writing quality as the similarly-ignored Looper, which I was also surprised to have enjoyed.

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