Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Moon” and “Tron: Legacy”
"Oblivion" is one of those films with the unfortunate luck of having a marketing summary that paints the film as less than it is. There is so much more going on that what the audience and Jack Harper is led to believe, and as the veil is slowly lifted from our eyes, it is hard not to be impressed. After "Tron: Legacy", it is understandable that there may be doubts about director Joseph Kosinski's latest, not to mention that it has Tom Cruise in it, but Kosinski proves that there is still hope for science fiction films yet, after 2009's "Moon".
The film starts off with an introduction to the state of Earth, and Tom Cruise's character, Jack Harper, a drone mechanic stationed on the desolate planet together with Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough). Their job is to repair the drones and safeguard the harvesters, machines that extract the planet's remaining vital resources in order to bring them to the remaining citizens of Earth who are on the Titan. Unknown to Victoria, Jack has recurring dreams of a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who seems familiar, but Jack cannot understand why. It is when the woman herself crash lands in a pod to Earth that Jack discovers that there is something more sinister at hand than what he is led to believe.
And "Oblivion" is definitely darker than it seems. The problem with twists is that so many films tend to abuse them without regard to the overall story, but this is not the case here. Everything that happens in "Oblivion" is meticulously thought out as to its effect in the overall narrative. For example, although the last 3 minutes of the film seem like a copout, given some thought, it is only fitting considering that 'that person' was the last loose end. Although film enthusiasts may claim to have spotted it from a mile away, the point is that it made sense upon reflection.
Kosinski also employs a lot of repetition in his film, which is surprisingly effective. It is nice to think that some effort is made to stay true to the film's ultimate revelation of its world and characters, one where repetition means that everything is all right ("Just another day in paradise"), and lives are echoes of lives lived. The scene when Victoria utters "We are not an effective team" is incendiary stuff, literally and metaphorically.
However, "Oblivion" is not a platform where moral and ethical questions are raised, neither is it a mind-bender of a film or a ground-breaking exercise in filmmaking. The film's boundaries between good and evil are explicitly drawn, but it is refreshing to see that when decisions are forced to be made, it is dealt with in a realistic manner as opposed to straight-out, over-the-top killing. In fact, much of the action does not come until the second half of the film, since the first half is devoted to establishing the close relationship between Jack and Victoria, which makes for a lump in our throats when tragedy finally strikes. What "Oblivion" is, is a film that is made well, like what Christopher Nolan did with "The Prestige". Kosinski actually takes his time with his film to develop the world and its characters, and it is hard to imagine that "Oblivion" could be told in less than its two-hour running time.
In addition, Kosinski understands the Tom Cruise effect. The man's facial expressions remain as limited as ever, but Cruise has a certain charm that lacking in other equally expressionless stars. Kosinski tries to weave the narrative around the characters, so that they would hold each other up and as a result, despite the familiarity of his role, we empathize with Jack, an everyday man who is equal parts Chell from "Portal" and Ariel from "The Little Mermaid". Not only can he kick some ass, but he collects little trinkets during his trips down below and stashes them in his hideout in the woods, dreaming of an Earth that he never experienced. Kosinski's thinking Cruise and his leading ladies click together perfectly, and it would be great to see him and Kurylenko or Riseborough pair up again in the future.
Another piece of evidence that "Oblivion" is not just a Cruise vehicle is Riseborough's character Victoria. She is not just another piece of ass thrown into the film just to help it sell, her character is given various opportunities to showcase her emotional range, from her happy partnership with Jack to her horror at the possibility of Jack's capture to her stubborn insistence of their duty. It helps that she looks uncannily like Eva Green, who is a fine actress in her own right. Meanwhile, the other leading lady, Kurylenko, gives a solid performance as Julia Rusakova. Her character resembles the strong yet vulnerable Camille Montes in "Quantum Of Solace", which is not saying much considering that the film had mixed reviews, but ultimately, it works in "Oblivion" because she could have just as easily heightened her character's drama to that of a soap opera.
If there is one flaw in "Oblivion", it would be that Morgan Freeman has too little screen time. Yes, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has equally little screen time, but considering that the former is getting top billing in the poster alongside Cruise, it feels like cheating. Then again, they were the ones who came up with that generic summary, mind you.
The music score for "Oblivion" is another highlight of the film. This is a film where the background accompaniment demands to be heard. Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese's compositions are everything but redundant, such as grand, sweeping and varied. The grandeur of the music score is matched by its cinematography and design, as expected of the award-winning Claudio Miranda. It is apparent that a lot of care has been put into the design of Earth to make it seem like a world and not just a generic template lifted from like-science fiction films. "Oblivion" feels like a game, almost too surreal with the lone football stadium in the barren wasteland, a small valley of green, waterfalls, ruins of the Empire State Building, and a desert.
Kosinski's science fiction film reveals that Tom Cruise works best as an everyday man-turned-hero with license to flash his megawatt smile, as opposed to the other brooding Jack, Jack Reacher. With a combination of a riveting narrative, emotionally-varied characters and striking visuals, "Oblivion" is single-handedly the first quarter of 2013's best film of the year.Cinema Online, 10 April 2013