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Cinema in Focus: ‘Oblivion’

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

Oblivion brings together many common themes into one well-told tale. Like The Terminator and The Matrix, the basic storyline is a battle between humans and machines. Like The Island and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there is a complementary love story of cloned humans with wiped memories who nevertheless remember one another and are providentially brought together. And like Independence Day and the Death Star of Star Wars, there is an impenetrable fortress that must nevertheless be infiltrated and destroyed.

Though these themes are familiar, they are brought together in a compelling science-fiction love story by director Joseph Kosinski.

The central character is Jack Parker (Tom Cruise). Explaining in his voice-over that a war with alien invaders was won by humanity but in so doing, the planet was destroyed such that the human population moved to a moon of Saturn. Jack is part of a remnant crew cleaning up the planet. However, Jack is having memories that do not fit this narrative.

Sharing the responsibility to clean up the planet is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Having been placed together on the assignment, they live together as partners. It is clearly obvious that Victoria has feelings for Jack that are not reciprocated. One of the reasons is a pervasive dream Jack has of Julia (Olga Kurylenko). We won’t spoil how this develops within the tale.

Also in the story in a way that we won’t explain is Beech (Morgan Friedman) and Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Their presence gives a twist to the tale that allows the story to have depth and texture since everything is not as it seems.

What makes science fiction compelling is its exploration of deeper human issues. Similarly, when a love story allows us to identify in a way that helps us better know the resilience of love, then both enhance our understandings of ourselves. This film brings both together in a thought-provoking way.

Discussion:

» It is difficult to know what the future will hold, but understanding who we are as human beings makes us better able to face this uncertain future. How does your understanding of yourself give you confidence and hope for the future?

» The fear we have of machines is a common theme by our artists. Do you share that concern? Do you think machines can be sentient or attack humanity? How do you support your opinion?

» The ability to clone a human does not often include the thought that memories would continue. Do you believe a cloned human will have the memories of the life of the person from whom they were cloned? Why do you answer as you do?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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