Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman
Plot: Jack Harper (Cruise) is an engineer in charge of fixing drones who guard the remains of Earth after a devastating war with the mysterious and dangerous Scavengers.
Oblivion marks the first of a few epic Sci-Fis that will be hitting the big screens this year. This particular movie focuses closely on two engineers, Cruise and Riseborough, and tells the story through them. This is a good move by the director, as it makes the film feel more personal and character-driven. The two characters live in a hovering tower in the sky, the last remnants of the human race, before they are beamed up to the rest of humanity and begin their trek to their new home, Titan. Below them is the rest of the Earth that was left in pretty bad shape after a nuclear war with a mysterious group of aliens, called the Scavengers. The Scavengers are still about on the surface and constantly trying to begin an uprising, so Cruise has to stay on his toes throughout the action.
As Andrea Riseborough’s character never leaves this base in the sky, Cruise is left to act pretty much by himself. He does a pretty good job considering. Being Cruise, he is a character we instantly like, winning the audience over with his care-free smile and witty one-liners in the face of danger. The actor does get a bad rap over this scientology thing, but when it comes to his film business, he always remains one of the most successful faces out there. Although this is the same character we have seen many times before, Kosinski works with it and pushes the best out of Cruise.
Some of the set-pieces are extraordinary. It is obviously the focus for a film of this description: we all want to see what Earth looks like after a nuclear war. Kosinski understands this, giving us a battle in canyons and giving Cruise a monologue in the remains on the 2017 Superbowl stadium. Part of me wanted more: they is so much more that could have been done with this idea, but I imagine Kosinski got pushed for time (more on that later), and had to cut out some epic scenery. For the most part, we are given desert wasteland and lush forest. This is a movie celebrating Earth and it succeeds in doing that.
The film opens up as a slow, tense thriller, following Cruise as he explores wreckages on Earth, always being watched by the Scavs. It is directed well, not afraid to take its time with the chilling moments. It’s not quite scary (no one is expecting Tom Cruise to get killed in the first half an hour of a film), but it becomes the next best thing and the movie finds a good tone to work with.
Sadly, despite how much I enjoyed these sequences, I feel that the director may have over-indulged. By the time, the film gets to the next part of the story, there isn’t much running time left and the other characters are practically squeezed in, never getting the right amount of limelight. Olga Kurylenko arrives quite late in the film and you can’t help, but wish she turned up earlier. Her character is played well. The right mix of strong-willed, yet not overly girl power, like Kurylenko’s other action roles in the past. Unlike Cruise, Kurylenko’s character is always at risk from dying at any given moment, which adds a bit more drama to the film.
While Kurylenko just manages to squeeze some limelight from the film, the resistance fighters, Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aren’t given any time to develop at all. Nikolaj is pretty much just ‘the guy good with a gun’ and Morgan Freeman just says some Morgan Freeman-y things (you know… that thing he has been doing ever since he was cast as God). By the end of the film, the director assumes we care about them, but in all honesty, part of me wishes they were cut from the movie altogether.
My problem with this film is that it is always unsure of what film it wants to be. It kicks off, as I have said, as a tense thriller, slow and character-focused, but at the midway point, Kosinski hits us with a plot twist. It will make sense when you see it on the big screen, but let’s just say, it makes the choice to be a certain type of movie. However, it commits to this choice too late and then, by the time we are ready to go home, it decides to become an action movie for the last twenty minutes. Don’t get me wrong, it is fantastic with what it does, but it feels too messy: three genres thrown into the same film. There is too much squeezed into the movie and it becomes hard to care, when the final half an hour is underway.
Oh, and look out for the Top Gun reference in the film. If anyone spots it, leave a note in the comments below.
Final verdict: A fantastic Sci-Fi, smart and sexy, but too long for its own good.