Oblivion (2013) Movie Review
Tom Cruise saves the world from aliens. Again.
It’s hard to talk about Joseph Kosinski’s “Oblivion” without accidentally spoiling some of the film’s surprises, because frankly, this is a film comprised of two halves. Here’s the tricky part, before that second half kicks off with the reveal of a major character, everything else leading up to that moment is something else entirely. See my dilemma here? So here’s what I’ll do — I’ll try to review “Oblivion” with as little potential spoilers as I can muster while still actually, you know, reviewing the movie. So, here we go.
Tom Cruised is tasked with saving the world. Not a big deal. He is Tom Cruise, after all. The Cruister plays Jack, a handy man/badass soldier/ace pilot who spends his days, along with pretty girlfriend Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) locating and repairing drones that are zipping around what’s left of Earth looking to blast holes in Scavs, or Scavengers, the remnants of an alien race that attacked Earth about 60 years ago and got nuked for their efforts. (That’ll learn’em!) Alas, nuking the Scavs also meant that half of Earth are, you know, gone, and humanity now resides in a ginormous space station called The Tet, waiting to travel to one of Saturn’s moons for relocation. Jack and Victoria have two weeks to go before they, too, join The Tet on its voyage to paradise. Hopefully, nothing will go wrong for the crazy kids until then. Ahem.
Things, uh, go wrong for the crazy kids. (Like you couldn’t already figure that out, right?) For one thing, those damn drones (essentially less friendly versions of EVE from “WALL-E”) are going down pretty often, victims of clever Scav ambushes. Which means Jack’s work is getting tougher and tougher, though he can handle it. He is being played by Tom Cruise, after all. Cruise, by the by, is playing his second character named “Jack” after assaying the Lee Child character in last year’s underappreciated “Jack Reacher”. Unlike the taciturn Reacher, though, this Jack is more lively, the Yang to Victoria’s Yin, if you will. Whereas Victoria just can’t wait to get to The Tet and off this polluted rock called Earth, Jack is more wistful, prone to sneaking off to a green paradise with a pond (and a fish). Victoria is perfectly played by Andrea Riseborough, and let’s face it, when you need pretty but reserved, you go to the Brits.
Later in the film, Morgan Freeman and “Game of Thrones’” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau pop up as soldiers battling the Scavs. Freeman’s character, Beech, has a plan for ending the war once and for all that involves Jack and Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the (literally) woman from Jack’s dreams who falls down from an orbiting ship one day. You see, Jack has been dreaming about Julia all his life, then one day she’s there. Which, yes, complicates Jack’s relationship with Victoria something awful. Melissa Leo plays the Tet-based Sally, the woman on the other end of Victoria’s daily briefings, who is charge of monitoring the duo’s exploits back on Earth. Leo was born in New York City, and everything she ever learned about accents she got from watching horrible movies where people speak in horrible accents, apparently. Then again, despite being seen exclusively on a video feed, Sally is creepy as shit, and that’s probably thanks in part to that Godawful accent of hers.
“Oblivion” is directed by Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”), based on a comic he wrote with Arvid Nelson. There is a lot of opportunity in “Oblivion” for a really great horror movie, especially early on as Jack is stalked by the Scavs, who appear to be trying to capture him alive (for, no doubt, nefarious purposes). Boasting a budget north of $100 million, “Oblivion” is a slick, well-shot, well-crafted sci-fi film. My only complaints would be the weapons and physical props, which at times looks clunky and “movie shop”-made, if you know what I mean. If you’ve seen any of the movie’s trailers and thought that “Oblivion’s” action seems to be very drone-heavy, then you would be right. All of the film’s major action sequences involve the drones, which is a bit disappointing.
You have to like Kosinski and company for trying something new with “Oblivion” by putting a twist on the pretty well-tread alien invasion storyline, but it’s justifiable to be a bit disappointed by the action and scale. Which is odd to say, when you consider that the fate of all humanity hangs in the balance. Acting-wise, Cruise is his usual Tom Cruise self — he’s solid as an actor and as an action hero. But I thought Andrea Riseborough did the best job of the entire cast, wringing every last drop of complexity from a character that could have been played straight.
Fans of sci-fi will get plenty out of “Oblivion”, though given the budget and studio pedigree, you can’t help but think that a lot more could have been done here, and that sense of missed opportunity for a really big, slam-bang alien invasion action film was lost somewhere.
Joseph Kosinski (director) / Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt (screenplay), Joseph Kosinski, Arvid Nelson (comic book)
CAST: Tom Cruise … Jack
Morgan Freeman … Beech
Olga Kurylenko … Julia
Andrea Riseborough … Victoria
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau … Sykes
Melissa Leo … Sally
Zoe Bell … Kara