Rating: 7 out of 10
~ Horatius XXVII
A Tom Cruise-driven sci-fi action flick that conforms to a non-linear storyline, impressive but redundant plot twists and gorgeous visuals, Oblivion stands on its own as the bar for science fiction films so far this year and constitutes a successful, if not off-line, approach shot from director Joseph Kosinski.
In a post-apocalyptic Earth circa 2077, an invading alien force has destroyed our Moon, causing earthquakes and tsunamis to rip the planet apart. Jack Harper and Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) are part of a drone-repair, reconnaissance group with the Tet, where the Earth refugees are currently being held before the remainder of the human race migrates to Titan, an inhabitable moon on Saturn.
However, a shocking discovery that hearkens to Harper’s past will de-stabilize his objective and place his future and the future of all humanity in the crosshairs of a deadly enemy force.
The first aspect of the film that will immediately raise eyebrows is how drop-dead gorgeous the film is and how ideally the sound works with the picture. Easily one of the crispest experiences you will have in the theater this year, the grounds of Iceland were used for the destroyed earth to great effect, as you will see several recognizable landmarks buried in the ruins of the old world. The sound design is even stronger, using every speaker in the theater to its full capacity. You will hear gunshots over your left ear while the hovering sound of a drone is in your right. It’s an engrossing environment to be in.
Cruise is by himself on camera for roughly the first 40 minutes with the exception of a few scenes with Riseborough. The movie was going to be made or broken by his performance and the experienced actor manages to pull it off. Cruise has quickly become the go-to for these kinds of films, as his turns in Minority Report and War of the Worlds have demonstrated. He can play to sci-fi and allow the viewer to suspend reality. His performance alone justifies this movie, but he is also complimented by a very strong supporting cast.
Riseborough steals the show as a cold, calculating and slightly over-confident navigator for Cruise. Seemingly a prisoner in the beautiful sky house that the pair resides in, Riseborough communicates with Mission Control (Melissa Leo) and constantly has to make excuses for Harper’s off-mission escapades. As the plot advances and thickens, Riseborough continues to intensify, furthering her concealed insanity until a great showdown with Harper midway through the film.
Morgan Freeman also plays a strong resistance leader, although that is what we have come to expect from the experienced, award-winning fan favorite. Olga Kurylenko also plays one of the strongest roles in her career as the catalyst for the plot.
At a concise two hours, Oblivion’s flaws start at poor pacing in certain scenes. Going to the old adage of “flashbacks make everything clear”, the film relies heavily on flashbacks to help the audience make sense of everything that is happening on screen. In the beginning, they are necessary. Going back to the same flashback four times in a span of 45 minutes is redundant. A big flashback at the end was much appreciated, solved all of the questions that I had, but by that time I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the flashbacks.
Another issue is the overall redundancy of the film. Not to give away spoilers, but there are several films that Oblivion feels like a replication of and for hardened sci-fi fans, the plot twist will have a been there, done that feel.
Oblivion is a strong science-fiction film. It won’t rank in anyone’s top 10 of the year, but it does a good job holding you over until the official summer releases hit theaters. Cruise controls this vehicle and is furthered by a strong cast. The brilliance of the film both through audio and striking visuals, however, are somewhat muddled by poor pacing and a redundant story. Still, Oblivion is a film that must be experienced in theaters and is a very competent and enjoyable sci-fi adventure.