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Oblivion is a 2013 post-apocalyptic science fiction film based on Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel of the same name. It stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, and Olga Kurylenko. The film was released in the U.S. on April 19, 2013. According to Kosinski, Oblivion pays homage to science fiction films of the 1970s.

Plot (spoiler!)

In 2077, Earth has been ravaged from war sixty years prior with an extraterrestrial attacker. The Moon was destroyed, causing earthquakes and tsunamis, while humans allegedly used nuclear weapons for a costly victory.

Humanity is now relocating to Saturn's moon Titan via the "Tet", a large tetrahedron-shaped space station. On Earth, Tech 49 Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner and lover Victoria "Vika" Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) are among the few humans left on Earth.

Stationed at Tower 49 in former northeastern United States, they are instructed by mission controller Sally (Melissa Leo) to protect the gigantic offshore fusion energy generators, which are generating power for the colonists on Titan, from attacks by Scavs, a small force of marauding aliens who remained on Earth. The generators are protected by both Drones and Jack's regular reconnaissance from his ship.

Despite having had a memory wipe, Jack experiences visions of being on the observation deck of the Empire State Building before the war with an unknown woman. When not on patrol, Jack secretly spends time at a small lake-side house he has built.

There is a scene in which Jack secretly deviates from the mission and re-routes to his lake-side house, reading books, playing basketball and listening to music down there.

Before he sleeps on the grass, he speaks to himself, "I'm gonna miss this place. It would have been great."

What is this "It would have been great"?

Does he suggest that it would have been great if he could go and leave there at will?

If so, why not say "it would be great"?

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    PEU 259.3 could help. – Damkerng T. Nov 11 '14 at 11:18
  • I read that before. Since the protasis is implicit, I'm not sure if that applies here. @DamkerngT. – Kinzle B Nov 11 '14 at 11:21
  • I can't remember that scene clearly, but I think what he meant is probably something like "It would have been great to stay here" when he knew that that was impossible. – Damkerng T. Nov 11 '14 at 11:23
  • I agree with that; let's see what a native speaker would say about that. ;-) @DamkerngT. – Kinzle B Nov 11 '14 at 11:26
  • I don't think there's enough context here to give an interpretation. Right now, I think only people who've seen the movie can answer (assuming the movie makes it clear). – snailcar Nov 12 '14 at 6:40
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I haven’t seen the movie, but can confirm that “it would be great” implies “and it still might be great, some time in the future” whereas “it would have been great” implies “but now it will never be great”. In other words, just as DamkerngT commented, the line as written means that something – perhaps the life he’d intended to lead in the house – is no longer possible, or even that it never was.

As usual the perfect implies that something is finished, and in this case that something is the possibility for “it” to be great, whatever that happens to mean in the context of the film!

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Let's say I'm waiting to hear from a friend. He might be flying in on business. We haven't seen each in other ten years. The phone call comes, and it turns out that the hoped-for visit is no longer a possibility. I might say, "It would have been great to see you" and by that remark, I would be accepting the fact that the visit is no longer a possibility.

P.S. I cannot say what would have been great in the movie. The grammar gives no clue. But it's probably the life he had imagined for himself.

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