Oblivion Review: A Visually Stunning Sci-Fi Movie with Heart
I’m a week late and more than a few dollars short, but I finally took in a screening of Oblivion this weekend, and I absolutely loved it. I’m a sucker for science fiction in any genre of entertainment, so when I first found out about the Tom Cruise starring post apocalyptic film by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), I immediately knew that I had to see it. I went into Oblivion with an idea of what it may be about, but I came out of my screening with a new appreciation for this visually stunning film, and its solid plot that features a nice little twist. This is the type of movie that packs the most punch the less you know of it, so I’ll do my best to not spoil one bit of Oblivion’s entertaining tale throughout this review.
Oblivion is set in the year 2077 on Earth, but the planet is far from the giver of life that it used to be. Back in the early part of the century the Earth was attacked by Scavs, which is an alien race that conquers planets for their resources. They first launched their assault on Earth by blowing up the moon, which caused the planet to behave violently due to the changes in the weather as a result of losing the large space rock. After Mother Nature laid waste to most of the world, the Scavs then launched their attack on the remaining pockets of humanity. The human forces ultimately won out, but to do so they had to blow up the remaining parts of the planet in a nuclear holocaust, so they had to leave Earth for Titan, which is one of the moons that orbits Jupiter.
This is the life and current situation that Jack Harper (Cruise), and his partner Vica (Andrea Riseborough) face. They have been tasked with keeping watch over the wastelands of Earth to ensure that the remaining Scav invaders don’t screw with humanities plans to fully relocate to a new hospitable location. They work in tandem from Tower 49 to maintain a fleet of terminator-like drones. These automatons protect massive resource harvesters that suck up every ounce of water from the oceans to turn into energy for use on the Tet, which is a massive upside down pyramid looking base station that the humans use as a jumping point to Titan.
Unfortunately, Jack begins to have odd flashbacks while investigating a downed drone, and he, along with the audience, soon begins to realize that everything is not what it seems, and that something is fishy about the Tet, the drones, and the Scavs. Prior to taking over their shift at Tower 49, both Jack and Vica had their memories erased for security purposes. This is a key plot element that lingers throughout the film, and it helped to create a sense of mystery about Oblivion as soon as Jack’s flashbacks began to occur.
I found out pretty quickly that this flick is more than just another post apocalyptic movie about aliens with awesome special effects. It has an intriguing tale with many twists and turns that also features a love story for the ladies, and plenty of action and awesome set pieces for the gents. Oblivion is one of those movies that tugs on your curiosity neurons from the get go, which makes its two-plus hour run time go by quicker than me eating a half-gallon of Homemade cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream. Along the journey I experienced a few plot changes that I didn’t see coming going into it, but they all made sense, and what’s even better, they were all reasonably explained by the end. I can’t elaborate on the plot anymore than I already have without spoiling your mind’s “Oblivion Blank Slate”, but there’s still plenty more to be said about Oblivion’s upsides.
Even if science fiction isn’t your thing, you still owe it to your eyeballs to go and see the amazing visuals that Joseph Kosinski’s managed to capture in Oblivion. He took a cue from Peter Jackson’s accomplishments in his Tolkien film projects, and crafted some of the best sci-fi cinematography I’ve ever seen. Far too often movies of this nature tend to rely on VFX and other computer tricks to flesh out its futuristic world, but that is definitely not the case in Oblivion. Kosinski implemented as many natural environmental shots as he possibly could, and his commitment to realism really came through in the finished product.
Some of the most memorable shots from the movie are centered around the scenes that feature Jack flying his ultra-cool looking bubble ship. The combination of practical shots, and some CGI enhanced ones, made all of the flying scenes pop off the screen like a Universal Studios theme ride. The camera angles mixed with the motorized ship set produced some high-octane chase sequences that look and feel amazing on an IMAX screen (IMAX is definitely the way to go). I especially enjoyed when the camera would be pulled all the way into a first person view, which provided a feeling of actually sitting in the cockpit with Jack as he maneuvered his way in and out of trouble. There’s even a Star Wars inspired trench run chase sequence that could easily be made into a 3D thrill ride itself.
Jack’s air vehicle also serves as a great vantage point to view the wasteland that the Earth has been turned into in Oblivion. Like I mentioned earlier, Kosinski was able to elicit the same type of emotional response from me that Peter Jackson did in his Middle-Earth based movies, because of his amazing use of the camera and real life sets. If Oblivion was nothing more than watching a guy fly around in a kick ass ship, and chilling in a sky tower that offers some of the greatest views of the horizon I’ve ever seen on film, then I still would have left my screening a happy geek. Simply put, Oblivion is hands down one of the most visually stunning movies I’ve seen in any genre of film.
Just because a movie looks freaking awesome doesn’t mean that it will always be good, because let’s face it, for a movie to be a success it has to have a solid cast. Oblivion has exactly that. Love him or hate him, but Tom Cruise is a solid action star, and once again he put on a believable performance as drone repairman Jack Harper. He has the uncanny ability to be both an action star, as well as a character with emotions. Both of these skill sets of his were featured in Oblivion, and I can’t really think of another actor who could have pulled off the role.
The supporting cast is solid as well. Andrea Riseborough did a fine job playing Tom’s partner Vica on the dying Earth, and she’ll cause you to dislike and love her at the same time. Olga Kurylenko (hot) gives a fine performance as well, and her character definitely helps to shape some of the more mysterious themes woven into Oblivion. Morgan Freeman’s character is under utilized in my opinion, but he still brings his usual venerable and wise style to the performance.
There’s many more actors who take part in this movie, but the last one I want to mention by name is Melissa Leo, who plays Sally, the mission control operator on the Tet (big space station in the sky). I don’t know why I like this character so much, but she does play a pivotal role in the movie, and she is the first sign that not everything may be what it seems in Oblivion. I still can’t get her favorite line out of my head, because it’s a new classic bit of movie dialogue. “Are you an effective team”, and the way she delivered it, definitely made this bit part stand out from the pack, and by the end it’s made clear that Sally is more than meets the eye. That’s all I’m going to say, so don’t press me for more answers!
It troubles me that Oblivion didn’t do well with the professional movie critics, because I truly feel it’s a must-see movie in 2013. I don’t think it’s a film just for geeks and lovers of science fiction either. By the time the credits roll you’ll realize that this movie isn’t what you expected it to be, and that it provided over two hours of brain stimulating content with some of the most exhilarating cinematography you’ve seen in any genre of film. It’s packed with mystery, drama, action, and every other ingredient required to make an entertaining movie in this day and age.
For all of its pros, and almost zero cons, I have to give Oblivion a solid 9 out of 10 Buddhas. I definitely recommend seeing it in theaters on an IMAX screen, because it’s a stimulating visual treat that deserves a large screen and booming sound system. If you have any sort of imagination, I promise you that it won’t be let down by a trip to see this excellent science fiction thriller on the silver screen.
9 out of 10 Buddhas
- Stunning visuals
- Thrilling action
- Mysterious plot that pays off in the end
The Not so Awesome
- Aliens screwing with Earth
Should you see it: Yes, preferably on an IMAX screen
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