oblivion2013

Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough

60 years ago an alien invasion threatened the Earth. At the cost of the planet, humanity won the war with the use of nuclear weapons. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is the Omega Man of this post-apocalypse world, tasked with guarding the machines that harvest any leftover resources before mankind moves to Titan.

Adapted from his own (unpublished) graphic novel, Joseph Kosinski brings the same visual flair to Oblivion that he brought to Tron Legacy. The vast scale is underlined by an eerie beauty, abandoning Cruise’s character in a daunting waste. Captivating on the big screen, this style is undeniably effective but perhaps evokes themes that aren’t really dealt with by the script.

The film not only suffers from some uncomfortable pacing throughout, but also eventually offers an array of side characters that are both undeveloped and unnecessary. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has nothing to do as someone who I assumed was not Jaime Lannister and ultimately is not an effective team with the underused Morgan Freeman. Tom Cruise also feels out of place here, as a man with memories he shouldn’t have. It is by no means a bad performance but it does not quite possess the touch needed for a story that deals with more personal conflicts.

Pacing is another problem, which places the film in the shadow of the 70s science fiction classics that Kosinski tributes. Stumbling from the weighty exposition necessary from the complex backdrop, the film also arises expectation that the issue of nuclear weapons, poignant at the time of release, might be addressed. Instead it doesn’t dive into this at all, or any of the social themes inherent in such a story. This lack of moral exploration means that most of the relationships in the film seem unreal and unjustified, something that prevents the effect of any real emotional gravitas.

M83’s cosmic score, however, is as evocative as Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack and complements the visual style in a way that the script never does.  While in some scenes the use of music hinders dramatic revelation and never really gives the film a chance to settle down and answer questions instead of ask them, it is still a marvellous standalone record.

It is perhaps Oblivion’s sense of familiarity that hinders it most and I’d recommend trying to watch it without certain recent science fiction films in mind. The recognition of these comparisons makes an already plodding pace stumble all the more but it is likely a flaw in the script that prevents the film from having any poignancy, wit or effect beyond its impressive cinematography, scale and score.

★★★

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