Jack Harper (Cruise) is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack's mission is nearly complete.
Living in and patrolling the breathtaking skies from thousands of feet above, his soaring existence is brought crashing down when he rescues a beautiful stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows and puts the fate of humanity in his hands. (from MovieWeb.com)
In 2010, Joseph Kosinski made his directorial debut with the visually stunning TRON sequel, TRON Legacy. Kosinski proved he had some serious talent for creating a believable, digital world for his characters to inhabit, and it's no surprise that the budding filmmaker has done it again for the impressive futuristic sci-fi drama Oblivion. This story takes place in 2077 after a brutal alien war caused planet Earth to be decimated and rearranged after the humans detonated nukes to wipe out the enemy. Now, just a pair of survivors are located atop the ruins of New York City as a kind of clean-up crew, helping to fix and maintain the drones that are frequently sent out to eradicate any surviving aliens. Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, takes regular trips to the surface from his solitude in the sky with partner Victoria, but steers clear of designated perimeters that were set up to keep them safe from radiation zones. Harper and Victoria only have two more weeks before they join the other survivors on one of Saturn's moons.
Kosinski creates a wonderful post-apocalyptic world that is one of the few I've seen that borders on beautiful. White is used heavily for all of the futuristic outfits and architecture, while the barren wastelands often look more lush and brimming with new life than dark and dirty. Meanwhile, any ruins of NYC that Harper stumbles upon are eerily realistic. From The Empire State building to an obliterated New York Public Library, the attention to detail is breathtaking. There are elements of Oblivion that make it feel like it's a disaster movie, but more so in the wake of one than an actual disaster flick. But Oblivion tone-hops a bit, while staying wholly within the sci-fi realm. While watching it, I was frequently reminded of other movies like I Am Legend, The Island, the Total Recall remake and even Cruise's own Minority Report a little bit. Heck, my wife even pointed out a lot of similarities to Pixar's animated film Wall-E, and with good reason. But Oblivion stands on its own really well regardless of any familiar developments. Kosinski works hard to keep it fresh and plot-twisting without letting you get too lost before something is explained. Still, when the credits roll, you're bound to have a few unanswered questions.
At 50 years old now, Tom Cruise is still an incredible action star. I've watched many of his big blockbuster movies over the years (starting with Mission:Impossible in 1996), and he's often caught flack for being cheesy or campy. While I can definitely see that in a movie like Mission:Impossible II, the guy has shown some serious acting chops in many of these blockbusters, especially a more demanding role like the one in Minority Report. Oblivion is no exception. He shies away from hiding behind his blissful signature grin and plays Jack as a very well-rounded and developed character. Cruise is an engaging actor to watch and he makes everything his character does in Oblivion believable. Starring alongside Cruise for much of the first half of the movie (before the mysteries start unraveling), is British actress Andrea Riseborough as Victoria. Vic is more by-the-book than Harper, as Harper's presumably erased memories begin to haunt him, and he lets his love for what he remembers about life on Earth dictate his emotions. Technically, I don't think we're supposed to really like Victoria, and Riseborough seems to make sure of that. When Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko enters as Julia, we realize just why Vic isn't supposed to be exactly likeable. Olga seems to have really grown as an actress too, and she gets the chance to show that in Oblivion (even if she's a bit underwritten next to Jack).
It's tough to discuss the plot without giving key moments of the plot away, but Kosinski keeps the audience on their toes as we're introduced to the world as Harper knows it and then have that world shattered at the same time it is for him. We're never a step ahead of Harper and that helps in bringing the audience closer to Harper's character and what he's going through. Between that and an engaging score from the masterful collaboration of M83, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese (for a TRON meets Inception vibe), Kosinski just seems to have all the right pieces in place to create an exceptional piece of sci-fi. The only thing that may mar this experience for some may be the familiarity of certain plot points or some of those points being left unexplained. Furthermore, Kosinski continues to test the limits of how far the audience can stretch their acceptance of the extraordinary plot developments. Granted, it all makes for a great science fiction experience at the movies, but you just can't overthink things. The other thing is, if you are not open to a very science fiction-driven plot, you're likely to come out of watching Oblivion wondering what just happened. (I've heard some complaints that the movie is too slow, too, but I disagree. I feel it's paced pretty well to ease you into Jack's world and the characters therein before revealing thre truth. To me, the worst is when a movie like this is all action with no substance. I think Kosinski found a fair balance here.)
The content for the film embraces the rating pretty firmly. While the violence never gets too graphic, Kosinski pushes the sensuality and nudity barrier a bit for the PG-13 rating. We first see a bare-back view of Victoria in the shower in a passing shot, and then later, she strips down for a nude swim on the balcony of their futuristic loft. It's darkly lit, but we see her full bare backside for an extended shot and then a long shot of her swimming in a clear glass-encased pool. We see her bare back again as she pulls Jack in with her, and the two kiss a bit and swim to the bottom of the pool while embracing before the scene ends (we see that as a long shot too with no explicit nudity). As for violence, there is some fighting, shooting, etc, with some characters being vaporized when shot by large guns, and in one scene, a character is shot in the stomach and we see a lot of blood on their hand and shirt. Later, we see a pulled-back shot of the wound (in other words, it's not a close-up and isn't very gory) as another person tends to the wound. The profanity is mostly mild, but there is one use of the "F" word near the end of the film that feels sorely unnecessary and rather cheesy in the way that it's used. (If you've seen the movie Red and remember Karl Urban's usage of it in one of the final scenes, it's just like that here.) Other language includes a handful of "S" words, "S.O.B," and about 3 uses of "g*dd*mn." Overall, I've seen worse for a PG-13 movie, but after Kosinski kept things family-friendly in TRON Legacy, I don't see what the nudity or profanity added to Oblivion.
In the end, Oblivion is a stylish and intriguing piece of science fiction. There's enough drama and action included to keep the audience invested, but diehard fans of the genre will probably get the most out of it. It's thought-provoking and memorable enough to leave a lasting impression, and the film's score is another one to check into after watching the movie. I'm excited to see what Kosinski will bring to the big screen next (which apparently will be a sequel to TRON Legacy).- John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/19/13)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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