Fans of science fiction films will likely experience deja vu while watching the new Tom Cruise film "Oblivion."
With nods to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and a handful of other films in the same genre, "Oblivion" is a movie that is nothing more than a parade of familiar moments. It's well done but ultimately unsatisfying.
Cruise plays Jack, a drone repairman in post-apocalyptic Earth trying to protect the planet's last resources from a group of freedom fighters. One day Jack discovers a crashed spacecraft, which sets off a series of events that leads him to question his superiors and everything he believed about the war that nearly ravaged the planet.
Director Joseph Kosinski, who previously directed "Tron: Legacy," brings the same visual flare to "Oblivion." Kosinski creates a good-looking film, with sweeping landscapes and some nice special effects that keep the audience interested. But that interest wanes as the story begins to unfold.
The film gets a bump when the mystery starts to reveal itself. By the time all the cards are played, it becomes obvious that "Oblivion" doesn't have much going on in the plot department, with some subplots getting sillier and sillier by the moment.
The cast enhances the material slightly. Cruise is OK in the lead, while Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo have small roles that border on bizarre (and probably would be laughably bad if the roles were played by lesser actors).
Even they can't save a film from an eye-rolling final twist that feels like it was tacked on to appease test audiences.
"Oblivion" isn't a total loss, but it's not good enough to have any impact once the summer season kicks off in two weeks.
Also in theaters
"Oblivion" misses the mark, but this week's other new release, "The Place Beyond the Pines," (B) proves to be an engaging piece of filmmaking.
It is a throwback to epic storytelling - a complex crime drama about the bond of fathers and sons from director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance.
The film is essentially broken into three parts.
The first part centers on a drifter named Luke (Ryan Gosling) trying to reconnect with a former lover (Eva Mendes), who has secretly given birth to the drifter's son.
Luke is desperate to be a part of his son's life, resorting to robbing banks to financially support him.
This leads to Luke crossing paths with a young police officer named Avery (Bradley Cooper), which sets up the film's second act that deals with the officer confronting corruption in the police department.
"Pines" ties the two stories together in the final act, with Luke and Avery's sons crossing paths.
It is the kind of film that slowly builds its story, while creating fully developed characters.
The film's best moments come in the drifter's story, thanks to another stellar performance from Gosling. It's a performance with little dialogue but much emotion. He's tattooed and stripped down, showing vulnerability that is rare to see from such an A-list actor. The first story also features a nice supporting performance from Ben Mendelsohn as a mechanic who befriends Luke.
The opening act is so good that it overshadows the other two stories.
Those stories are good in their own right, with some tense moments in the second act and a final act that threatens to jump the track but manages to work.
"Pines" doesn't always click, but it constantly aims high. Its ambition proves to be its strength, giving filmgoers looking for something a little more quiet and reflective a satisfying excursion.
"The Place Beyond the Pines" is rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.
-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page attwitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at email@example.com.
Credit: By MICHEAL COMPTON The Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org /783-3247
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