Oblivion (2013)

“Undimmed by time, unbound by death.”

Gone, but not forgotten… or well, not quite gone either… somehow this catchy line isn’t working out as well as I’d planned.

Anyway, another month has gone by since I made my triumphant return, and I’m still not at all back in the swing of watching movies again. However,  there is one movie I’ve seen during this interregnum, and yesterday I found myself reviewing it in conversation. It occurred to me that the law of the internet states that an opinon isn’t valid until it’s shared with the world where it can be archived for all eternity so I’m back here to write what I thought of Oblivion.

Now, I actually started this review when I first saw the film, but I only got as far as inserting the graphics and a scant summary paragraph. WordPress is telling me that was 53 days ago, so this review will be just a bit more retrospective than normal.

The film stars Tom Cruise as Jack Harper, a technician in the not-too-distant future assigned to oversee the equipment harvesting the last of Earth’s resources after an alien invasion has forced the human population to flee for a colony on Titan. (As Harper explains in a voice-over “60 years ago, Earth was attacked. We won the war, but they destroyed half the planet. Everyone’s been evacuated. Nothing human remains. We’re here for drone repair. We’re the ‘mop-up crew’.”) Of course, as completely spoiled by the trailer, it turns out that there are still some humans on Earth, and they’re led by Morgan Freeman.

The plot consists of a lot of tropes and ideas recycled from other science fiction stories. However the film succeeds in sewing these ideas together in an original and very entertaining way. Writer/Director Joeseph Kosinski’s story somehow manages to take a number of hard sci-fi concepts and weave them into a decidedly pleasing package befitting a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster.

Oblivion-1As much as I enjoyed the story and the fun sci-fi twists. What I remember most about the film its impressive visuals. Kosinski directed the film based on his own graphic novel, and that really does come through. There are a number of images in the film, moments in motion that I’m still marveling at weeks after seeing it. Splendor is the word that comes to mind when I think back on it.

The acting is generally solid. Whatever one thinks about Tom Cruise personally, there’s no denying his star power. Here we see the diminutive fifty year-old, portraying Earth’s great hero and a compelling romantic figure, and he pulls it off flawlessly. 

It really is Cruise at the center of all the action and the whole plot, but the supporting cast is strong as well. Olga Kurylenko, and Andrea Riseborough portray the two ladies in Harper’s life, and both manage to create memorable and distinct characters. They aren’t the MOST memorable or distinct characters ever, but there’s at least SOME depth there. Riesborough in particular succeeds in overcoming the fact that her character as written could easily have become a  one-note cliché.

Freeman doesn’t do anything particularly special in his performance, but then I don’t think he was expected to. He essentially there to be the wise voice of exposition, and plays it well. I was impressed by the appearance of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who appears along side Freeman as a brash underling, but absolutely nails the part, injecting humor and humanity into what otherwise could have been another one-note character.

Part of the reason that I waited on this review is that I wasn’t sure how to rate the film. My initial reaction was to stamp it with my highest seal of approval, but I wasn’t sure. Overall I think that Oblivion is an excellent example of a film that succeeds in becoming more than the sum of it’s parts, it’s a bunch of familiar parts and pieces put together in a new way to become something special through fantastic use of film as a visual medium. Therefore, I think that it is just good enough for me to call it, a Must See.

[Oblivion [2013] – Director: Joseph Kosinski – Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity]

OM|ED Rating: Must See