Yes, it’s been done before, about a future where we find ourselves
striving for control against the computers we created to make it easier on
ourselves. But “Oblivion” has a little different twist on the old
premise, and it’s slick and well-made, which makes the viewer
suspense/deception more acceptable.
The premise is that 60 years from now, there will be good news and bad
news for planet Earth: the bad news is that we’ll be invaded by
hostile aliens. The good news is that we’ll win the war. The bad
news is that we had to use the nukes, which pretty much devastated the planet.
The good news is that a colony of survivors lives in a space station.
The bad news is that there are still some rebel hideouts in the countryside
which need mopping up. The good news is that we have experienced pilots
like Jack (Tom Cruise) to fly the scouting cruisers, and maintain the drones
that the rebels keep trying to sabotage. Jack and his lovely wife
Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) live together on a kind of futuristic
watch-tower, where they are in constant communication with the Mother Ship,
the space station, and their contact is Sally (Melissa Leo), who gives Jack
his assignments, and encourages Victoria, that it won’t be long now until
they get to live on the Mother Ship, and someone else will be given this
remote assignment on the desolate planet.
We like Jack not only because he’s a loving husband and a resourceful
pilot, he also nurtures just a bit of the rebel himself. He’s got a
secret hideaway, near the radioactive “danger zone”----a little cabin in
the woods, the kind of place that lives in the fantasy world of most guys:
an isolated, rustic place with a fresh supply of running water nearby. A
few purloined books, to enjoy at leisure moments. A functioning
fireplace with real wood-burning logs. Maybe a few silly mementos.
Nothing too clean or neat (in contrast to the glass-enclosed watch-tower
high-rise). A hideout, really. Jack probably couldn’t even
explain why it’s important to him to maintain it. Any more than he can
explain why he keeps having these flashback memories of some other woman in
(He’s aware that all the veteran pilots had to undergo a memory-erase for
security purposes, and to avoid PTSD, shortly after the war ended.)
As viewers, there’s something comforting about realizing that the head
of the resistance movement is Morgan Freeman (character name Beech), sitting
there smirking with an aviator cap and goggles, smoking a cigar, with that
deep, resonant voice, and that instantly-endearing familiarity. When
Jack is captured by Beech, the subsequent interrogation awakens Jack to an
alternate reality, which has him questioning some of the premises he’s been
force-fed by the Mother Ship. So what’s real and what’s revisionist
history? Ah, that’s for him to discover and for us to guess.
What the machines will never understand is how we humans long for
inconsistency and randomness (not to mention admiring nonconformity), and that
rebellion is a hard-wired part of our human nature. All the way back to
Adam and Eve.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,