The year is 2077 and Earth lies in ruins. Sixty years ago the planet was attacked by the Scavengers (also called Scavs), an alien race which destroyed Earth’s moon. As a result of this destruction the planet was racked by massive earthquakes and a series of other disasters, and then the Scavengers invaded. The humans won the ensuing war but the nuclear weapons they employed devastated what was left of the Earth. Now humanity has made an exodus to Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. All that is left of humanity on Earth are a series of power plants and the Tet- a station built to manage the exodus to Titan. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a technician. He and his communications officer Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) live high above the Earth repairing drones which protect the power plants from the remnants of the Scav army. Jack is haunted by a life he shouldn’t remember, since his memory was wiped before he began repairing drones in order to protect the safety of the mission. Still, he and Victoria’s tour of duty is almost complete. Then, when the remnants of the Scav army send a message off planet, Jack is thrown into a desperate struggle for survival.
This is a stark film, constructed of harsh sweeping vistas of the devastated Earth and the clean lines and muted tones of Jack and Victoria’s living space. Many of the scenes of the film are told with only three characters- Jack, Victoria, and Sally (Melissa Leo), their liaison with the Tet. This tight focus allows acting and character to really shine and these three core actors deliver wonderful performances. There are of course other characters in the film (including appearances by Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko) and their performances, if not as top notch as the core three, are still quite good.
This film exists in the vein of classic sci-fi. The plot twists in (relatively) unexpected ways and the film explores some interesting questions. The main question posed by the film is that of self-hood. Who is Jack? He has a self, a life, and a home as a drone technician, but within him are the memories of another life. Can he ever know who he actually is, and should he want to? Also explored (although more briefly) are the nature of history, and the nature of god.
I am not a Tom Cruise fan personally and therefore I was ready to dislike this movie because of him. Instead I enjoyed it immensely. Cruise’s style of acting is perfectly suited to the character of Jack Harper and the best parts of the film are the raw character scenes between him and Victoria. Ultimately this is a great film and I would recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi. Even if you don’t normally like Tom Cruise, you’ll like this movie.
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