Posted April 10, 2013 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Oblivion



Back in 2008, audiences fell in love with a soulful, big-hearted, little trash-collecting robot named WALL-E who saved the world and the future of mankind while cleaning up humanity’s mess.  Fast forward a couple of years and replace the cute little robot with Hollyweird’s favourite, toothy, couch-jumping Xenu-botherer toting a rifle that’s almost as big as him and, in essence, you’ve got TRON: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion.

60 years after an apocalyptic war with an alien invasion force known as the Scavs (short for Scavengers), mankind has been forced to abandon the battle-ravaged Earth, evacuating the remaining population to a colony on Saturn’s moon Titan, leaving behind only a skeleton crew of soldiers tasked with repairing and maintaining the security drones that protect the giant harvester machines strip mining the planet’s natural resources that are essential for humanity’s survival among the stars.

Drone repairman WALL-E, sorry, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his devoted colleague and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are nearing the end of their tour of duty on the Earth’s surface and in two weeks will join the rest of the survivors on the Titan lunar colony.  Jack spends his days patrolling the skies over what was once New York and repairing security drones damaged by the Scavs still hiding in Earth’s ruins while Victoria coordinates his searches and acts as his eyes and ears.  But by night Jack is plagued by dreams, fragmentary memories, of a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko) he’s never met.  Or has he?

When the beautiful EVE, sorry, Julia (Olga Kurylenko) literally falls from the sky in a damaged spacecraft, Jack finds his very existence thrown into turmoil as he’s forced to confront some horrific truths and finds the future of humanity rests on his shoulders.

Slick, glossy and pleasingly straight-faced, Kosinski’s sci-fi epic (based on his own graphic novel) is actually a rather sombre, thoughtful, ambiguous piece of work masquerading as a Saturday night, crowd-pleasing, balls-to-the-wall action flick.  Concerned as much with the unreliability of memory, niggling paranoia and the persistence of love as it is with big guns, dazzling pyrotechnics and flashy CGI, Oblivion borrows liberally from some of the most iconic science fiction films of the last 50 years (Planet Of The Apes, The Matrix, Silent Running, Moon, 2001), drawing major inspiration (and stealing chunks of plot) from WALL-E, Philip K. Dick’s brilliant short story Second Variety (filmed as the little-seen gem Screamers) and Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space novels yet still somehow managing in the process to rise above its diverse influences to deliver a bold, refreshing (if not exactly fresh) vision of our post-apocalyptic future with, for once, a truly alien threat.

As Oblivion’s everyman protagonist, Cruise is decent if a little miscast, delivering a nicely understated performance which never quite convinces as your regular working stiff.  No matter how much he plays down his Messianic craziness, the Cruiser is always playing the hero even long before his Jack realises he is one.  Why else would he ride around Kosinski’s stunning ruined vistas on a motorbike when he could zip around in his cool insect-like spaceship other than the fact the Cruiser likes to race motorbikes?  Far better casting as Jack would have been Game Of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who’s relegated to the secondary role of grizzled resistance fighter.  Though Cruise convinces as a man who, when faced with the choice between two seemingly idyllic heterosexual relationships, would rather go to war with a malevolent alien machine intelligence.  The film also features a fantastic triumvirate of female performances with the exquisite Olga Kurylenko definitely the kind of woman who’d make anyone, not just Tom, question their beliefs if she fell out of the sky on top of them while Melissa Leo is creepily cheery as Jack and Victoria’s ruthless space-bound boss.  The finest performance in the film though comes from Andrea Riseborough who manages the feat of being twitchy, sexy, poised, vulnerable and ambiguous in every scene she steals.

Without wishing to reveal any of the film’s major twists (c’mon, you know from the trailer Morgan Freeman is basically phoning it in as the film’s Morpheus!), Oblivion is a little obvious, offering few surprises, and it’s never quite as clever or stirring as it wants to be but it is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous, exciting piece of pure entertainment that may just end up being the first iconic sci-fi movie of the next decade.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com