The year is 2077. And what remains of Earth is nearly unrecognizable. After a war with an alien race known as Scavs, humans had to use nuclear force to win, but, as a result, destroyed the planet and were forced to leave. They colonized on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, is a Tech agent that is needed to patrol his area for Scavs as the remaining resources of Earth are being salvaged by the Tet, a massive space station that is being used as the final escape vessel for humans. The stage is set. The mission is clear. Finish gathering the resources and go home. If only it was so simple.
Throughout the film, Jack has dreams, dreams of his past, dreams of memories, dreams of a woman. A key memory is one with a girl atop the Empire State Building. It has to mean something. It had to mean something. Jack struggles with his feelings and has difficulty sleeping, constantly waking to the memory of this lost woman. Jack’s “teammate” in this ordeal is Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough. She is Jack’s eyes in the sky, literally, as they reside in a home above the clouds. She cares for Jack and is seemingly jealous and frazzled when he brings up a woman, a lone survivor in a crash, into their home. Clearly, something is up here.
The film’s sci-fi elements are enough to please the audience, but the special effects used by Joseph Kosinski, the director of Oblivion, is what separates this film from other, more recent sci-fi films. We have undoubtedly entered a new phase in technology, as the desolate world Kosinski creates is breathtaking. From a destroyed White House, to ships littering what was once the Atlantic ocean, but is now a dessert, to the Empire State Building buried in sand. Earth is no longer recognizable and man, is it convincing.
Cruise is surprisingly strong as Jack Harper, a man who is attempting to piece together a deleted past. He brings the film to a realistic level of understanding. Jack loves Earth, but his mission is to drain it of its resources and head “home.” Something about this is uncomfortable to Jack. To him, Earth is still home. It is this driving force of figuring out what is home that enables Jack to make the decisions that he makes. He instinctively knows how great of a planet Earth is, or, at least, was.
It is the human elements that drive this movie home, as Jack collects artifacts from Earth before the war. These items are familiar to him and make him feel comfortable. To him, these items are home. Not the loft in the sky or the colony on Titan. Earth, with it’s radioactive zones and Scavs, is still home. To Jack, that is what is right. And it is his curiosity about Earth’s past that separates him from his “teammate” Victoria, who is never interested to go to Earth’s ground. And it is Jack’s curiosity that leads him to books and ancient cultures, the instrumental key to Earth’s past and future.
Then out spake brave Horatius,
the Captain of the Gate
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”
These are the defining words for Jack. The words that resonate in his soul. The words that lead him to his destiny. He is a hopeless romantic about Earth. Entranced in its ancient beauty and glorious past. Conflicted with orders to leave his planet, Jack uses these words as ammunition for his doubt. A small seed that he plants in his soul to leave an open door to saving the planet that he loves.
In the end, the film is definitely worthwhile. While the script and plot turns are fairly predictable, the actions and developments come from an honest, science-fiction place and the special effects are dazzling. Earth truly seems to be on its last legs after a destructive war, but Jack always believes he can save it and sustain life, as seen with the plant he grew while on the ground. But with life always comes death and with death we are reminded of the words of Horatius. In the course of human history, no man dies better than Jack Harper, as he fights for the ashes of his fathers in the face of fearful odds.