You Could Be Haunted By Striking Visuals In 'Oblivion'

Apr 23, 2013
Originally published on April 23, 2013 3:05 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And let's go from the gritty life of the streets to the fantasy of the screen. A big budget science fiction film may sound like business as usual for Hollywood, but there is one new release that is both a throwback and a step forward. Here's our critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN: "Oblivion" just might be the most expensive episode of "The Twilight Zone" ever made. It's a throwback to the days when on-screen science fiction was about speculative ideas rather than silly toys to tots. It's 60 years in the future, an unsuccessful alien invasion has devastated earth, causing humanity to move to one of the moons of Jupiter. The only people left are a drone repairman named Jack, played by Tom Cruise, and his navigator, played by Andrea Riseborough, who had their minds cleaned to protect the security of their mission.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "OBLIVION")

TURAN: The routine of their existence is shattered when a spaceship lands nearby.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "OBLIVION")

TURAN: Then a mysterious individual played by Morgan Freeman appears and seems to know an awful lot about Jack.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "OBLIVION")

TURAN: Jack's been looking at old books because he's scheduled to be rotated off the planet. And he's going to miss the place, or so he thinks. In typical Rod Serling fashion, what started out straightforward gets increasingly less so as plot twists become the order of the day. But despite its implausibility, "Oblivion" and its striking visuals have the ability to haunt us. Its riffs on memory, reality and identity remind us that unforgettable science fiction is about ideas, not explosions.

"Oblivion" is a piece of futuristic speculation intended for adults, not their children. It's a movie that makes you remember why this kind of stuff pulled us in way back when and didn't let us go.

INSKEEP: Ken Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.