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Rising from the Ashes of Memory

What’s the new, big idea behind Oblivion? Every discerning sci-fi film buff looks for a concept in a new film. In the Leonardo Di Caprio-starrer Inception, patient it was dream architecture?that dreams could exist within dreams. In Peter Jackson’s District 9, it was the chilling metaphor of apartheid, retold in an alien-human society.

So what earth-shattering idea does this 2013 American sci-fi flick bring to us? Oblivion tells us this? even if a shred of humanity lingers on in a re-engineered Man, it will eventually return to its full glory and redeem Mankind. Oblivion however, struggles to convey this, and if you ‘get’ this concept at the end of this film, consider yourself well and truly redeemed.

Jack Harper, played by Tom ‘War of the Worlds’ Cruise, is a drone mechanic on an Earth that has been ravaged by an alien invasion 60 years earlier. He and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) believe they are the last two humans on the planet, living in a tower standing thousands of feet above the scarred ground. Their brief is to clean up the remaining aliens helped by drones, deadly airborne machines that scan and destroy alien life forms. Hydro rigs hover over the oceans, ‘mining’ Earth’s water for energy. Jack and Victoria receive instructions via video link to Sally, their commander.

The couple are due to shortly join the exiled human settlement on Saturn’s moon, Titan. They have both had their recent memories erased, for ‘security reasons’. But Jack begins to get recurring dreams and flashbacks of an unfamiliar, yet smiling woman in New York before the invasion.

Harper is troubled by the dream flashes of his past. But Victoria wants to wrap up the job on Earth and go ‘home’ to Titan. She reminds him?“Our job is not to remember, remember?”

Harper checks on a spacecraft that has crashed to Earth and rescues a woman hibernating in a sleep capsule. He is stunned to see that the drones kill all the other crew members of the wrecked craft. Our hero is equally astonished to discover that the ‘aliens’ he has been battling are a band of humans hiding out in the ruins of the surface, led by an outlandish character played by Morgan Freeman. A visit with Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the mystery female astronaut to the top of the buried Empire State Building brings back hazy memories that confirm what the woman tells him – that she is his wife from before the alien meltdown.

The slick ultra modern interiors of the tower pod where Harper lives, as well as the super realistic special effects are spectacular. A shattered moon orbits the earth, a colossal reminder of the apocalyptic war. Victoria is a perfect woman. A tad too perfect, one thinks. Is she for real?

As surprises tumble out through Oblivion, produced and directed by Joseph Kosinski, the viewer wonders whether anything in the film is really what it purports to be. If the aliens being ‘mopped up’ are human, is Commander Sally a human being? Are Harper and Victoria human beings?

If you are into ‘ruin porn’, the oohing and aahing over desolate, ravaged cities, Oblivion offers some excellent imagery. You gasp as you recognize familiar buildings that have been folded over and embraced by rocky terrain, caused by the earthquakes after the Armageddon.

The plot slows down midway in the film, particularly as the all too familiar image of Morgan Freeman as rebel leader appears. Oh no, not again, you groan, recalling Matrix, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus et al. But the suspense kicks in again briefly towards the end.

A college kid walking out of the hall with his mates ribbed his girlfriend? “You didn’t understand it, I know, soglem tokle voilean gelem (it all went over your head)”

That means this sci-fi flick really sank into oblivion for the baffled damsel. Let’s hope Mr Boyfriend fared better.

But if you do get the film’s meaning in the end?its noble idea for human redemption? you will have spent your time well, and will buck up your hope for mankind, whether Armageddon arrives or not!