Oblivion follows repair man Jack Harper – working as a repair man on an abandoned Earth devastated by conflict with invading aliens. Harper must confront his past, which leads him on a journey of redemption and discovery as he fights to save mankind.
Oblivion is a stunning film to look at, director Joseph Kosinski uses beautifully cinematic and sweeping vistas to tell the story.
The visuals are complemented by an excellent score from French electronica band M83. The music delivers a sense of anticipation and awe that perfectly reflects the on-screen imagery of a buried Golden Gate Bridge or a shattered football stadium.
Plot wise, the film is a hotch potch of other Sci-Fi tropes. Fans of the genre will spot plot elements robbed from films like WALL-E, 2001 a Space Odyssey, Total Recall and Moon. The story would make for an excellent short story in a Sci-Fi anthology like The Twilight Zone. As it is, the plot is a little too thin when stretched to feature-length and it feels derivative.
Tom Cruise is on-screen for almost the entire film and is provided with support from a very small cast that includes Morgan Freeman, who just phones in his performance. Cruise knows how to lead a movie though and he does a creditable job with what he’s given. Sadly though, what he’s given is the most generic of movie action hero character traits. He likes baseball, he’s good with a gun, is ruggedly good looking and rides a motorcycle. Cruise is like a CG character in a video-game with all the inherent emotion therein. Never is this summed up better than at the films denouement, where he delivers the line “fuck you Sally” with a total lack of conviction, when whats needed is a Charlton Heston like “Damn you all to hell” diatribe.
The script lacks any warmth, with no emotional drive and there is no humour at all. The film is shot with a bluish hue, lending it an anti-sceptic feel that heightens the emotional disconnect. As a result the audience never connects with Jack Harper, instead we’re all just watching Tom Cruise. Sadly, there is no on-screen chemistry with either of the female leads in the movie, both of whom are merely there to look good.
The second half of the film is a more conventional summer action film which is buoyed by some incredible set design. The special effects work is nigh on perfect and Kosinski creates some genuinely exciting action set-pieces.
Oblivion opens well, gradually immersing the audience into a post apocalyptic world. The film is visually rich but intellectually lacking and emotionally distant. So damning with faint praise then? Well no, at least the film has a story and it’s about big Sci-Fi ideas – something lacking in mainstream Sci-Fi trash like Transformers for example. So, find the largest screen you can and you’ll find much to enjoy.