Movie Review: Oblivion

Movie Review: Oblivion

The writer's question existence and the spiritual in 'Oblivion'

By Mark HadleyWednesday 10 Apr 2013MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Rating: M
Distributor: UPI
Release Date: April 11, 2013 

People fail to credit just how much wisdom Jesus injected into everyday English. From his lips we’ve received axioms like ‘It’s better to give than receive’ and warnings about ‘the blind leading the blind.’ Even non-Christians remind each other that ‘Man does not live by bread alone’. But if there’s one line that has shaped more Hollywood scripts than any other it’s ‘The truth will set you free.’ Two thousand years on it still rings true in the science fiction thriller, Oblivion.

The creative talents of writer/director Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) deliver us to a desolate future, sixty years after a war in which alien forces destroyed most of the earth. Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, a retired marine commander eking out his last days watching over the devastated surface. “We won the war,” Harper narrates, “but they destroyed half the planet. Everyone’s been evacuated. Our job is security, we’re the mop-up crew.” Harper’s duties include repairing drones while robotic stations harvest the last energy resources from dying oceans. However, with only two weeks left before they leave to join the rest of humanity, Harper and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) detect the crash of a disabled spacecraft. He arrives to discover a human crew that his drones attempt to destroy. An encounter with a survivor teases out a thread of truth and the more Harper pulls, the more his world begins to unravel.

Oblivion is an apocalyptic puzzle plot infused with the tension of I Am Legend in a future as richly textured as Minority Report. Kosinsky says he wanted to give Harper the ‘last man alive’ feel that he remembered from 1970s science fiction like Omega Man and Silent Running. He ends up setting him in a world that’s too clean to contain the truth:

“The world is kind of divided into two zones: the world above the clouds and the world below the clouds. The world above the clouds is where Jack lives with Victoria … away from the dangers that live below.”

Oblivion has much of the same feel as The Matrix. This marine’s pristine existence floats over the top of an ugly truth. And Harper even has his own Morpheus to help him face the facts – Morgan Freeman as the century-old survivor Malcolm Beech:

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“The people you work for lied to you. They told you to follow orders and soon you’ll be joining the others. It’s time you know the truth.”

But just like The Matrix – and in fact, real life – we do not always welcome the freedom truth brings. Neo’s comrade Cypher would rather be ‘plugged back in’ than face life outside of a computerized delusion. Likewise Harper’s Victoria would rather shut the door on her partner than accept her longed-for reunion with the rest of humanity is just a likeable lie.

It’s not a surprising turn when you consider the reception Jesus got for ‘the truth will set you free’. He was talking to people who thought they were on their way to heaven because they were born into a good background and kept their distance from bad people. His claim that they were actually slaves to sin made them so uncomfortable that they killed him to prove they didn’t need saving. It’s ridiculous, I know. But it’s not that big a step from them to people today who ridicule Christ because they’re convinced they’re good enough without him. The lies we tell ourselves are the most comfortable of all. Yet if Oblivion can teach us anything it’s that though the truth can set you free, freedom is not always comfortable.