Directed By Joseph Kosinski
Victoria: “Two more weeks, Jack. Then we can finally leave and join the others. Don’t take any chances…”
Oblivion rounds out the last of the serious offerings before the Summer movie season begins in just a few short weeks with Iron Man 3. There is often a lot of ho-hum titles that find their way in the April release slot, but this sci-fi jaunt from writer/director Joseph Kosinski was not another forgettable filler. This time, backed by the star power of Tom Cruise, Kosinski is able to bring some great sci-fi visuals akin to what we saw in his last film, TRON: Legacy, to a story that has a little more depth.
In Oblivion, we find Jack (Tom Cruise) on a post-war Earth, oddly going about a daily routine of fixing security drones and coming home to his lovely companion, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), in a house in the sky where their only interaction is with Sally, a communications liaison. We learn early that the “effective team” of Victoria and Jack have been at their jobs for five years and only have two weeks to go before they are taken up to the giant orbiting space station in the sky known as Tet. Then they will be able to join the rest of the survivors of humanity on Titan, a moon of Saturn. It is all laid out before Jack, his life, his duty, his daily tasks — though something obviously pulls at him, giving him pause to think there is something more. Jack even creates his own little piece of Earth on the surface, though he knows he will soon give it up for something that he has always been told will be fulfilling. It is possible that nothing would have swayed him from his inevitability if not for a crashed ship and a survivor, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), that changes his understanding of everything.
Sally: “Are you an effective team?” Victoria: “Yes, we are an effective team.”
If you ignore the technology and breathtaking view, Oblivion opens us on a couple that is steeped in routine that can be all too relatable. Jack and Victoria are a team — an effective team. They each have their jobs, their responsibilities, and, most importantly, a promise of something better. That something better is supposed to be waiting for them on the Tet, a gigantic ship in Earth’s orbit that is said to house most of the survivors of the human race. Due to a memory wipe (or plot device), neither can actually remember being on the Tet, nor do they know for certain what has happened to Earth, where the survivors are, or even how many people are on the Tet. They simply have a belief that what they are being told is true, and that their current toil will bring them the life they have been working toward.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” -Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Jack Harper: “Is it possible to miss a place you’ve never been? To mourn a time you never lived?”
Maybe that life would be enough for VIctoria, but we learn that in Jack is unsettled. He has dreams of a woman — of another life. He is bothered by the fact that he is told the humans won the war but now they are the ones who have to leave the planet. Jack longs for something he has never seen, he hopes for things that do not make sense and challenge his routine. We see his longings to break out when he brings Victoria a flower, or when we are invited to his little corner of “Earth that was.”
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” -Revelation 21:1
The resonation of what Jack goes through mimics everyday life. Jack’s routine promises life for him, for Victoria, and for humanity — just keep your head down, be a successful drone repairman and you will have a reward that will fullfil you. Ultimately, Jack realizes the lie, and similarly, we eventually feel discontent in our own life when we do the same. There is a reason that repeating the same process; getting up every morning, going to work, coming home, and turning off our brains to some form of entertainment, then sleeping — doesn’t feed our soul. We were meant to live for something more and those longings are woven into every fiber of our being. 1 Peter reminds us that we are “aliens and strangers” to this world and John reminds us that we “are not of the world.” That knowledge of a place we’ve never been nags at us like a reoccurring dream and refuses us complacency.
This is the part of the story where we encounter truth. Truth comes to Jack in the form of his real wife, Julia. A strange journey has kept them apart for sixty years but time has not allowed the truth of their love die. It’s news that Jack almost doesn’t want to hear because it turns his world upside down. The thing he has been doing every day was not life, it was death. The truth is hard. The truth is complicated. The truth means he has to make a decision. It means Victoria will have to make a decision.
Jack is already curious. He is already seeking out things that tell him there is something outside the routine he has been living in for the past five years. Victoria has already given everything to the lie. Once Jack is converted he begs Victoria to come with him, to help humanity, but she has her hope in something that ultimately leads to her death. It is hard to fault Victoria because she is probably the one character that most people can relate to. She has worked hard to succeed at the tasks she has been given, but it has blinded her to the possibility that there could be something more than being an “effective team,” something greater — something she had not considered. This “something” is the reality that Jack now lives in. Knowing the truth does not make his life easier, but it makes his toil worthwhile. It gives him perspective and helps him make decisions later in the movie that have real impact. That “something” is the difference between life and death for him.
Oblivion dives in deeper when we find out more twists along the way, and even brings us face to face with a false creator and the implications of the soul in regards to clones – yes, clones! Much more than most films so far this year, Oblivion has, like sci-fi movies often do, opened up many questions about who we are, what our place is in the universe, and what we were created for. So, take the time to sit back and enjoy the film while also pondering why simply falling into your routine never seems to bring you the satisfaction you hoped it would. Ponder that maybe you will never be satisfied with routine or the promises of this world because this world was never really your home.
Malcolm Beech: “I’ve been watching you, Jack. You’re curious. What are you looking for in those books? Do they bring back old memories? Don’t ask too many questions. They lied to you. It’s time to learn the truth.”