Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Karl Gajdusek (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay) (as Michael deBruyn)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough
So as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had countless permutations of Tom Cruise doing the understated superhero thing and the film I’m focusing on today is no different. Directed by Joseph Kosinski and based on his unfinished graphic novel of the same name; Oblivion is undoubtedly beautiful looking, featuring a crisp, clean, cloud abode and shiny modern spaceships to boot. The trouble is that it feels superfluous in this regard and has a distinct lack of much else outwith the superficial.
Set in a distant 2077, it would be fair to say that the Earth has seen a dramatic change in the sixty years that have followed humanities war with a mysterious extraterrestrial species. For one, the planet has supposedly been devastated (there’s little evidence of this to begin with) and a colony has been created on Saturn’s moon Titan with humanity’s former home now serving as a mere source for power via gigantic ocean gurgling generators.
Step forward Jack Harper or “Tech-49” (Tom Cruise), a security technician tasked with keeping armed drones, protecting said generators, functioning in order to stave off attacks from the alien scavengers, hiding in caves, that continuously attack them. Living with him in their cloud skirting, gigantic tower apartment is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), a strangely emotionless, almost robotic like partner that guides him to downed drones. Jack outwardly appears a normal chap, but as the film progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that mentally all is not what it seems.
He’s been having visions, you see, visions of being on the Empire State Building with a strange woman and when he discovers that the ‘scavs’ have been using the aforementioned building’s antenna to send signals into space he begins connecting the dots. This is only exacerbated when the women from these visions arrives. A strange ship re-enters the Earths atmosphere and crashes, only to be inexplicably attacked by the same drones Jack has been repairing. It’s at this point he discovers Julia (Olga Kurylenko) in a stasis pod and whisks her back to the apartment only to be met by a frosty Victoria.
Needless to say, things take a bit of a turn for the worse at this point. After an enlightening meeting with the savangers led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), whos clearly not an alien incidentally, some shocking revelations (totally predictable) are made. Jack is a clone that’s been doing the aliens dirty work for them, with regular mind wipes and replacements keeping the pretence of normality going. The telegraphed twists keep on coming too. The huge ship, Tet, once believed to be a human creation is actually the extraterrestrials mothership and they’ve been siphoning energy from the Earth.
I think the rest of the story is pretty self explanatory from this point, so I’ll not waste any time detailing any more of it. Think Independence Day, happily ever after and you’re half-way there.
Performances. Ok. Tom Cruise does what Tom Crusie does. He puts in a solid enough showing as Jack. It’s his film as you’d expect, but Jack is hollow, like every other character in the film. There’s no presence of a soul in any of them and little to no development. Jack is probably the most developed of them all too. He has his very existence and way of life turned on it’s head and discovers a wife he never knew he had. I won’t be too harsh on him because this wasn’t his fault and he did the best he could.
The only other performance or character that even springs to mind is Victoria. Riseborough gives off a genuinely disconcerting vibe in the film and seems almost robotic at points. There’s a complete lack of emotion that almost mirrors the dense, blonde freaks from the future in the original Time Machine. She does a decent enough job, but again is ultimately let down with a poorly written script that seemed to shirk any focus on the actual characters in favour of a predictable plot and eye candy visuals.
Ultimately, Oblivion is an enjoyable enough watch if you can see past its deficiencies in character development and just watch it as a purely popcorn, sci-fi, action flick. It is visually stunning, especially those scenes in the apartment that gave off major Cloud City vibes, with some decent action at intermittent points and isn’t the worst film in this genre I’ve ever watched. Not by a long way. However, coming off a recent viewing of Blade Runner with its incredible, multifaceted story and performances makes this look pitiful in comparison.