By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH
“Oblivion” is an entertaining yet thoughtful film that has us pondering what would happen to humans once we kill Earth and all living things by blanketing the precious planet with deadly CO2. It stars Tom Cruise in yet another space, sci fi thriller, written by Karl Gajusek and Michael Arndt, directed by Joseph Kosinski.
It’s the year 2077. We find Jack (Tom Cruise) living in a glass box, with the coolest swimming pool ever suspended below. It is cantilevered over an asteroid orbiting a decimated, desiccated Earth. Jack lives here with his wife (?), Victoria, aka “Vicky,” played by Andrea Riseborough.
Jack, a scientist/Homeland Security agent of sorts, is ordered by Sally (Melissa Leo), a bossy, snarky-voiced face on a screen (“Are you an effective team?”), on missions back on Earth to continue searching for any natural resources. But Jack suffers occasional flashbacks of images of New York circa 2013 and of a smiling dark-haired woman. Vicky assures him that that can’t be happening—he’s undergone Memory Wipes (which sound like something you’d find in Walgreens next to adult diapers).
Sally orders Jack back to Earth, which died due to global warming. Jack, in a silver space suit, takes off in his shuttle. Accompanying him are spherical drones resembling Chinese Demons, which scan foreign stuff and shoot anything down that doesn’t compute.
As Jack’s flashbacks recur, he begins to question his identity- who is the woman? On one harrowing mission he discovers a tribe of humans who never left Earth, led by none other than white-haired Morgan Freeman. They live practically underground in deep, dark caves, out of drone range. Jack swears not to betray them.
Jack shuts off his tracking devices so neither Vicky nor Sally can find him and flies to his secret hiding place on Earth—an idyllic, Walden Pond-like arrangement. He goes there to think and to try to recreate memories of his life on Earth. On his way back to space, he and his drones discover a crashed space ship strewn about with space pods containing humans in suspended animation.
As he peers into each pod’s faceplate, he sees THE WOMAN—Julia, played by Olga Kurylenko. He checks her status and discovers she’s been asleep since 2050, seventeen years. The year everyone had to evacuate planet Earth. He must save her! However, the drones go into high dudgeon and blast away at the pods. Jack manages to bring Julia back to his space pad, downing drones every which way.
Once home, Jack revives her. Suddenly, the film is about relationships: Vicky is jealous. But, hey, she is just part of his team, not a real wife! Especially after Julia helps him remember that they are married. After a lot of suspenseful and life-threatening moments, including Sally’s thwarted commands, Jack and Julia escape.
Despite its video-game action episodes, this film contains a deeper meaning in the fact that Jack wants to restore Earth, and expand his “secret garden.” In one scene, Jack, on the desiccated earth, nurtures a tiny green plant he’s grown in a metal cylinder. He presents it to his team-wife, Vicky. She promptly tosses it, saying that they could be stripped of their standing should anyone find out. SOMEONE does not want Earth resuscitated—green, growing things, and with fresh water.
The message that I derived from the film is that it is imperative to take a stand against those who insist that we ignore the science behind climate change; who fight clean energy and promote fossil fuel production and the R & D that ensures that the industrialized world, especially the U.S., will have an eternal supply. In the film, Jack speaks for the Earth. We must join him.