Oblivion (PG-13)


Movie Info

Rating: * * 

Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo.

Director: Joseph Kosinski.

Screenwriters: Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt. Based on the graphic novel by Kosinski.

Producers: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Duncan Henderson.

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 126 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, sexual situations, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


For its first hour or so, Oblivion is a visually mesmerizing, intriguing picture that doesn’t feel like the same-old: It engages your eyes and piques your curiosity. Then, gradually, the novelty wears off, the clichés start to pile up and we’re back to Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia 101. In his follow-up to TRON: Legacy, director Joseph Kosinski, with the aid of Oscar-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda ( Life of Pi), crafts some dazzling images and beautiful designs (the movie was shot using 4K cameras and enormous rear projections instead of green screens; see it in IMAX if you can). He also teases you with the story, letting you know right from the start things may not be what they seem.

The movie, based on Kosinski’s graphic novel, is set in the year 2077, decades after Earth fought a battle with space invaders that rendered the planet a radioactive wasteland. Mankind has relocated to a moon off Saturn and relies on enormous long-distance power generators that feed off the ocean tides. Only two human beings remain: Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who live in a sleek floating apartment and are assigned “mop-up crew” duty. Their job is to keep the electricity flowing and deal with roaming packs of the defeated alien forces, which are still hanging around for some reason, constantly making trouble.

Jack and Victoria live and work together as a romantic couple. But he has a recurring dream of standing atop the Empire State Building, before the end of the world, with a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko) he doesn’t know. Cruise is tasked with carrying Oblivion on his own for a surprising while — there are long stretches when he’s the only person onscreen — and he has wisely chosen to tone down the clenched-jaw intensity he used in his last movie, Jack Reacher, and make this Jack a more relatable, vulnerable fellow. Once again, he appears to be doing a lot of his own stunts, and he helps to sell the film’s great CGI illusions — such as the floating drones that dot the planet, ready to exterminate anyone or anything they don’t recognize.

Oblivion also features a thunderous score by the French electronic band M83 that elevates the excitement of the action sequences, such as a gigantic shoot-out between man and drone in cramped quarters. But once the plot starts doling out the surprises, the seams begin to show. Oblivion was co-written by Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine and also worked on Toy Story 3 and Brave, so it’s especially disappointing to watch the movie dissipate into ideas and visuals from other films. There are distracting vibes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wall-E, Total Recall, TV ’s Battlestar Galactica, the underrated Moon — even Star Wars. The filmmakers don’t even have the courage to see the story to its proper end, opting for a ridiculous finale that feels vaguely insulting to anyone who had invested in the film as a work of serious, yet accessible, pop sci-fi. See Oblivion for its look, but don’t expect anything more.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Guardians of the Galaxy’:</span> Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt form an unlikely team of space-jockey superheroes.

    Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

    Watching the zippy, ebullient Guardians of the Galaxy, you wonder “Why can’t all comic-book movies be this much fun?”

Dad (Ethan Hawke, right) plays around with his son (Ellar Coltrane) in a scene from “Boyhood.”

    Boyhood (R)

    Contrary to most dramas, which tend to dwell on traumatic or seismic events, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood argues that life is a compilation of small, everyday moments, an accumulation of the feelings and thoughts and emotions we start to gather from the time we are children. Shot over the span of 12 years, with the cast getting together for a few days annually to shoot some scenes, the movie charts the growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 5 to 18. Mason has an older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) and he has two loving parents, Mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke), who are divorced and live apart. Their relationship can be contentious at times, but they both care deeply for their kids.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category