I’m going to go light on the spoilers because what makes this film work is the steady stream of discovery. Without that, this film is pretty worthless. So here’s the plot in a nutshell: Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is Tech 49. He lives in a house in the clouds with Victoria, his partner and lover, and his job is to protect and maintain drones which protect these massive machines that are sucking up the oceans and turning them into electric power, which gets shipped to the humans living on Titan.
The story begins with Jack fixing a drone and giving us a long series of visuals about the destroyed Earth. We are shown various destroyed landmarks, like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Pentagon. We also see that the scavengers are no match for Jack, and certainly not for the drones.
Is that what’s happening here? Well, yeah, but there are several more interesting twists I won’t tell you about, like who/what Tom really is and what role Tom had in the initial invasion of Earth. Again, neither point is original, but their inclusion feels surprising enough here that it’s worth not revealing in this review.
As films go, this one wasn’t dull, despite the very thin story. The film is beautiful, even if we are talking about yet another apocalyptic film. There is a lot of tension in the film, coming primarily from the use of space. Specifically, there is a constant sense that Tom lacks the ability to monitor the world around him to ensure that he’s safe whenever he steps out of his helicopter spaceship (a bubble ship). This was very well done to keep you anxious throughout.
But it also makes the movie worthless in terms of re-watchability. This movie depends entirely on the mystery it builds and the suspense in each individual scene... will they get him or not. And once you know the answer to the mystery and once you know when he’s in danger and when he isn’t, there just isn’t anything left in the film that you want to watch a second time. The story doesn’t resolve itself in a rousing way to make you stand up and cheer, so you can’t revisit the feeling of triumph. The romance is pro-forma and cold, so you can’t fall in love all over again. The film isn’t funny, the dialog isn’t beautiful or surprising. The action scenes aren’t spectacular. The world they create is sparse and uninteresting and not the sort of world that sparks fantasies. All you have is a mystery, a mystery that vanishes once you’ve seen the film.
So here’s the thing. Nothing about this film is original. In fact, it’s horribly derivative. Nothing about this film is deep or memorable. The film isn’t an enjoyable story that you want to see again, it doesn’t present a world that will pull you in and make you want more, and it doesn’t have characters that you care about. But what it does have going for it is an interesting mystery about what exactly happened. In that regard, I definitely recommend seeing this film... just don’t buy the disc.