Like Admission, Oblivion has an identity crisis. Is it a heroic coming of age tale about someone willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good? A treatise on man’s dependence on machine? A psychological mind bender? A thriller? A mystery? An action film? A romance? Unlike Admission, Oblivion doesn’t sync these competing identities into anything resembling a compelling whole.
The actors are all fine. Cruise as Jack, Freeman as Beech, Olga Kurylenko as Julia, Andrea Riseborough as Victoria, Melissa Leo as Sally. They’re all just fine. Nothing special. Nothing bad. Fine.
Before the turn wherein we know the twist, the film suffers from lack of explanation. Why do Vicka and Sally have distinctly Earthen accents when both would have been born after the Earth had been destroyed, causing people to move to the Tet and then Titan? How would mankind have developed the technology necessary to make this move so quickly? We weren’t even started with it in 2013. The world ended in 2017. So where did our ability to craft the technology derive? Why would the military structure accept Jack and Vicka being lovers? How is it possible that Jack and Vicka cover all of the surviving Earth when we see them monitor very little territory?
After the turn, the film seems to suggest there is a reason for all of these original unanswered questions. These holes exist because they are clues leading you to the turn. Okay. Fine. But now the film suffers from different unanswered questions. How is it possible that neither Jack nor Vicka have ever had a clue about other workers? Ever? Why did Beech only just now recall Julia’s ship? Or has it just taken 60 years to return? And, if so, how did Beech even know it existed? Actually, check the if so. How did Beech know the ship existed? How did Julia have any idea what was going on? She was asleep for sixty plus years, including when her crew originally left Earth. How would she have known anything about the Tet? Why didn’t Julia have more of a response to Jack’s presence, when she first saw him? What or who is Sally, really? From whence does it come? Why is it here? What is it really doing? What is its objective? And more.
All of these questions lead to one conclusion: Oblivion makes little sense and is badly plotted.
The visual spectacle of the film is compelling, yes, but that spectacle is not nearly enough to make up for a weak plot, unremarkable performances and more or less undefined characters.