‘Oblivion’ Movie Review – Slick on the Surface
Sometimes you don’t realize how stupid something sounds until you say it out loud. We’ve all had those times where it sounds good in our heads. In Joseph Kosinksi’s newest film Oblivion, the plot, when said aloud, sounds foolish. Still, somehow, someway, the sci-fi apocalyptic film (have we exhausted this genre yet?) overcomes plot issues to become an entertaining, and superbly shot, piece of work.
The year is 2077 and Earth is sixty years out from a nuclear winter. When an alien race tried to overtake Earth, the human race responded with nukes. The resulting warfare forced humans to evacuate to Titan (yes, that’s one of Saturn’s moons).
It gets worse, too, because the humans still need Earth for a power source. Using giant hydroelectric thingys for power, some technicians are needed to protect and maintain the sources. Furthermore, unmanned drones circle the surface of the earth automatically decimating aliens.
Enter Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), who is the smartest of the bunch. With his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), the two are in charge of running a planet full of drones. Since an alien presence still looms, they are the last line of defense. Jack begins having interesting flashbacks, and his perception of what is real and not real, and what happened and didn’t happen in the past, becomes hazy. Everything starts to hit the fan when a familiar face (Olga Kurylenko) surfaces.
Explaining the movie made me realize how dumb it sounds. It is science fiction, but it has to be rooted in some sort of reality or believability. The slightest breeze knocks the plot over. I do realize some things aren’t as they seem when the movie is said and done, but there still are major issues.
With that being said, Kosinksi does a fabulous job creating an environment and film that makes the audience forget the plot shortcomings (at least during the film). With a wide-open and blue-gray color palette, Oblivion looks stunning. He creates a universe that is vast, but a story that seems small – meaning it’s not full of unnecessary characters.
This continues to work throughout the film because it’s not overly action-heavy. Kosinksi lets his characters come forward (mostly Harper) and doesn’t rely on action effects. There are lots of visual effects, yes, but this is done in the name of setting, not action.
Cruise himself isn’t super distracting either. In fact, he’s quite good. I’ve always been neutral on him as an actor, and I think he does a good job restraining and separating himself from his previous characters. Instead of being his witty and arrogant self, he plays a more contemplative (that’s the only word I could come up) role.
Getting back to the genre, Oblivion is continuing the “flavor of the week” trend. Right up there with superhero movies are apocalypse/dystopia films. Trying to judge a movie on its own becomes difficult when it becomes so much like the others.
In some ways, Oblivion stands out for the better. I can’t think of an apocalypse film that looked so slick. However, it works both ways. Joseph Kosinski’s film can’t transcend the genre – in ways it reminds me of last year’s Prometheus – because the look and feel can’t overcome the flimsy premise. It still makes for an above-average genre pic, but that’s all.
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