I’m usually a little nervous going into any Tom Cruise movie (such as Oblivion), but as soon as I realized how smarmy the character he was playing was to start with, I decided it would be all right. He’s always totally believable as a self-centered jerk, which is certainly what Major William Cage is to start with. The only reason he’s in the Army is because he was in ROTC in college and after the advertising firm he worked for went under, he decided the patriotic thing to do was to sell the military.
I’m usually a little nervous going into any Tom Cruise movie (such as Oblivion), but as soon as I realized how smarmy the character he was playing was to start with, I decided it would be all right. He’s always totally believable as a self-centered jerk, which is certainly what Major William Cage is to start with. The only reason he’s in the Army is because he was in ROTC in college and after the advertising firm he worked for went under, he decided the patriotic thing to do was to sell the military. I mean join the military and help them work on their public relations, something like that.
The reason the Army needs more people is because it’s now part of the Unified Defense Force, fighting to beat back the weird aliens that recently crash-landed in Germany and are now well on their way to controlling all of Europe. They’re called Mimics though I’m not sure why. They don’t ever seem to mimic anything and they certainly don’t look like treasure chests. They are awfully mean, however. But the UDF has just won a major victory against the Mimics in Verdun, thanks largely to Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, Looper) and now they want to capitalize on that advantage with a full-scale invasion to retake Europe.
Brendan Gleeson of the Harry Potter franchise is the general in charge, and early on Cage foolishly tries to manipulate him. That’s why Cage ends up in handcuffs, as you may have seen in the trailer, and why he ends up in a battlesuit as part of the invasion force. And he soon discovers that every time he dies along with the rest of this invasion force, he wakes up back in handcuffs and has to start all over again. And as in Groundhog Day, he clearly lives through those same hours many more times than we actually witness. It must be exhausting, all that sameness.
Anyway, of course nobody believes Cage’s ridiculous story, from Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton, 2 Guns) all the way to the aforementioned general. But Rita believes him, because it used to be her that was dying over and over again and somehow resetting everything. Cage has that ability now, but at least he doesn’t have to keep completely re-explaining everything whenever they meet again for the first time. It’s already hard enough to keep the movie from getting repetitive without throwing something like that in.
There’s also Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor, who was in Lawless, but more interestingly was also in Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise) and is an expert in alien microbiology. Also particle physics, which seems like an odd combination to me, but whatever. The point is, he helped Rita so he understands what’s happening, too, and he has a plan to defeat the aliens that’s so crazy it just might work.
The science is perhaps a little doubtful, and the plot isn’t exactly watertight, though you get that a lot with time travel. Usually you’re so busy keeping track of what happened when to who you don’t have a lot of attention to spare for the logic of it all, anyway, which is pretty much the case here. And it actually managed to be an entertaining movie, doing a pretty good job of repeating itself without making everyone in the audience fidget impatiently in their seats.
I’ll give it four and a quarter out of five, the quarter being all for Emily Blunt, who I like. Poor English actress Charlotte Riley (who like Emily was in an episode of Foyle’s War and here plays one of Cage’s fellow soldiers) was told to sound like she’s from the southern U.S., and ends up with one of the worst accents I’ve ever heard. I cringed when she spoke. But aside from that it was quite well-done, and well cast. And remember: try to out-stubborn Brendan Gleeson at your own risk.