“Oblivion” — movie review
Release date: April 19, 2013
Written and Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga and
“Oblivion” writer and director Joseph Kosinski wants you to walk about of his new movie questioning what you’ve seen. You should know that going in because you’re going to walk out of the theatre with plenty of head scratching questions after this beautiful albeit mind numbing journey into our future.
The film begins in the distant future of 2077 with an overly expository — and somewhat confusing — voice over from the protagonist, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise). Apparently around 2017, Earth was attacked by an alien force, waging a war that lasted for years until we finally nuked them. Humans won the war, but the Earth was lost. You’ve see the trailer. Harper and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are the only humans left on Earth, left to service drones that act as security and surveillance as they seek out remaining alien threats or skavs.
It makes for a solid and original set up — if you can look past the weird “Wall-E” connection. The first half of the movie unfolds as Harper begins to question his life and his purpose on Earth. He has dreams about a woman he doesn’t know and a life he doesn’t remember. These questions weigh heavier on him as he and his partner near the end of their mission, when they will be allowed to return to the Tet, a vessel orbiting Earth, that will soon take the remaining survivors to one of the moons of Saturn.
Joseph Kosinski talks about bringing the sci-fi thriller, ‘Oblivion’, to life
As far as the plot goes, it’s really hard to say anything at all without ruining the twist to everything. There’s a lot you’re not seeing in trailers and TV spots and for good reason. The second half of the movie follows these twists and turns and we go along with Jack. The direction is bold and very intriguing but the follow through doesn’t live up to the leap of faith the audience is asked to take. What begins as an original and existential premise quickly spirals into a wasteland of sci-fi clichés.
The main problem as the movie winds down is that so many questions are raised in the second act that there aren’t enough answers to feel satisfied — not just in a “you have to figure it out for yourself” kind of way, more of a “the answer does not exist nor is it logical” kind of way. You’re never really made clear what Jack and Victoria’s mission is and by the end there are so many plot holes opened up by the plot twists that it just doesn’t feel like it all goes together.
Visually, it is nothing short of stunning. Kosinski opted to not shoot in 3D, shooting in the higher resolution 4K instead and it pays off. Much of the film takes place during the day, adding to the bleak and desolate wasteland that Earth has become. There is some brilliant post apocalyptic scenery. Kosinski is clearly inspired by some of the great sci-fi movies of our time, from “Omega Man” to “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
At the height of it’s potential, “Oblivion” could be one of the greatest science-fiction movies since “The Matrix” in 1999, but instead it relies on far too many cliché cop outs to make it feel like you’ve experienced an existential journey. Kosinski is going to get his questions…they just may not be the ones he was hoping to inspire.
- Evil Dead
- G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Subscribe to my Movie Examiner column at the top of the page and get my reviews sent right to your inbox.
Follow me @tbenglish on Twitter, on Facebook or on my own personal website, Bonus Features with t.b. english.