Director: Joseph Kosinksi
Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo
Running Time: 126 minutes
Release Date: April 10th
Some 60 years after a devastating war between earthlings and aliens, mankind are hoping for a new beginning on Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon. Two people left behind to work on clean-up duties for earth are Jack (Tom Cruise) who maintains “pods”, robots that are on earth to kill the remaining handful of “scav” aliens; and his girlfriend and colleague, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Jack is suffering from amnesia, and dreams of a life on earth that may not have existed, while Victoria is looking forward to ending the assignment and joining the rest of mankind. Needless to say, neither Jack nor Victoria knows the whole story…
This is a full-on sci fi movie, as opposed to an action movie that happens to be set in the future. On the plus side, this means that there’s a genuine sense of mystery and an elaborate futurescape created. However, it also means that the film is bogged down a little with exposition about where the story is now and what the film’s internal rules are. Once the story kicks in, though, it’s an engaging thriller—mixing elements of hardcore sci fi with a teasing conspiracy thriller.
Joseph Kosinksi also made Tron Legacy, so unsurprisingly this is a stylish piece of work. It’s also a more satisfying film overall than his debut, thanks to some nice acting and a decent story.
Oblivion is stylistically similar to a lot of sci fi in the past few years, including Wall-E (to which this film owes a big debt) and the Portal videogames. The shadow of Apple design looms large in all of these films, with glistening white products and touch-screens in every corner. The monstrous “drones”, spherical little death stars that stalk what’s left of the earth are both menacing and weird, not least because of their distorted digital sound effects that make them sound like grouchy, bug-filled computers.
Tom Cruise can nearly do this sort of role in his sleep, but he does it well—playing a dutiful, stoic and nostalgic blue-collar worker. Whatever one thinks of his personal life, or those embarrassingly softball TV interviews, he still has the presence and vulnerability that made him an icon.
Elsewhere, Andrea Riseborough is appealing as his first love interest, if unambiguous; Morgan Freeman is ideal as the earth-dweller whose motives are an enigma; and Olga Kurylenko has little to do but look gorgeous, a task that she achieves effortlessly.
For better and worse, Oblivion keeps its cards close to its chest for quite a while; at first it’s enticing and mysterious, but eventually you just want to know the hows and whys. There are a handful of twists, only about half of which offer genuine surprises. It’s a good looking film, though, and the final act is satisfying, making for an entertaining, attractive, but imperfect sci fi epic.