Written by Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
New in theaters this week is the new Science Fiction action/thriller from the director of Tron: Legacy starring Tom Cruise, Oblivion. The first of many apocalyptic earth films to be unleashed in theaters this year, this summer’s After Earth and fall’s Snowpiercer still to come; Oblivion is a beautiful looking epic that despite a small cast is very grand in scale. The question is will the film be original enough to outshine its competition?
2077: Jack Harper (Cruise) serves as a security repairmen stationed on an evacuated Earth with his partner Victoria (Riseborough) who monitors his action from their own command center. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat who still scavenges what’s left of our planet, Jack’s mission is almost complete. In a matter of two weeks, he and Victoria will join the remaining survivors on a lunar colony far from the war-torn world he has long called home. Jack’s soaring existence is brought crashing down though after he rescues a beautiful stranger named Julia (Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft. Drawn to Jack through a connection that transcends logic, Julia’s arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he thought he knew.
Oblivion is the blended offspring of “Prometheus” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”, with copious amounts of “Independence Day” and “Moon” also in the mix. The film features all the gorgeous imagery of Ridley Scott’s epic from last year mixed with a literal interpretation of HAL from 2001 and a ‘mothership’ straight out of Independence Day. The first hour of the film, while establishing our breathtaking setting, does not feature a lot of action or plot as it is used for world and character building almost exclusively. The second hour marks the arrival of Julia and the film shifts dramatically to a more intense action piece. The film features more than one area where the story could have finished but continues past these on its way to the eventual ending,
Cruise is decent here in typical Cruise ‘good guy’ fashion, closely resembling his “Minority Report” John Anderton mixed with a bit of his “War of the Worlds” Ray Ferrier. Point is we’ve seen this performance from Cruise before and its good enough without pushing any boundaries. The real star of the film may be Riseborough and her performance as Victoria. Riseborough maintains a meticulous, calm and by the book outside veneer, but the audience cannot help but feel an underlying menace in her tone and actions. Kurylenko is decent, and other than the occasional appearance of Melissa Leo via a video com and Morgan Freeman appearing as a survivor, the rest of the cast is merely window dressing as most have next to no dialogue.
The film has a lot of green screen CGI vistas mixed with some real locations to create some stunning visuals. The setting is captivating, with devastated cities and barren wastelands surrounding the planet to Jack`s own ‘garden of Eden’ type getaway, the camera gives the audience plenty of lush imagery to watch as the film proceeds. The effects and stunt work is also very well done as the ships and drones Jack work with and the home that Jack and Victoria live in feel very tangible. The setting and surroundings are by far the biggest reasons for audiences to experience the film in the grand scale that a movie theater provides.
Oblivion is a pure joy visually to watch, but the story is a smorgasbord of other films that have come before. Borrowing liberally from other material, Oblivion plays all of it straight up without any nods to the audience that they may have seen this material before, which may have helped play off the `déjà vu` nature of the viewing experience. Still the stunning visuals on display here make the film worthy of a recommend.
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