In 2013 Film Reviews, Films by David Watson

Back in 2008, audiences fell in love with a soulful, big-hearted, little trash-collecting robot named WALL-E

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

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
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.