Jack (Tom Cruise) and his mission partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) share the remote observation tower on Earth, watching for enemy Scavs and maintaining the fleet of drones which patrol the lifeless Earth, its surface devastated after decades of war with the alien Scavs. When he discovers a crashed spacecraft with contents that bring into question everything he believed about the war - including the surviving human, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), a woman he vaguely recalls - Jack's reality is turned upside down and he can no longer trust Sally (Melissa Leo), the face of distant Mission Control.
Review by Louise Keller:
Elements from Total Recall, Solaris and Moon orbit the narrative of this heralded, overlong Tom Cruise sci-fi action thriller that does its best to dazzle by its myriad of special effects, videogame-esque sequences and a plot that pretty well succeeds at confusing itself. I must not forget to mention the belligerent music score that pounds relentlessly throughout the 126 minute running time.
But it's not all bad. Superb production design ensures the film's visuals and for me, the best part is the contrasting dynamic between Cruise and his two striking female co-stars, whose physicality and personalities are equally opposed. Based on the comic, Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski has written a screenplay about dreams and memory, replete with complexities as he brings the bleak, futuristic reality to life, when the Earth is nothing but a desolate shell of craters and desert, its population having been relocated to Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
It is 2077 and we are given a lengthy glimpse of Jack's (Cruise) world and daily life. He lives a solitary existence with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) with whom he sleeps in a silver-sheeted bed. As his 'navigator', Victoria spends her days touching glass panels on the ultra-modern console that overlooks the vast landscape beyond, while Jack heads out in his white spaceship performing tasks as mop-up crew, repairing damaged drones. Riseborough is the cool English rose from Brighton Rock with the auburn hair, porcelain skin and old fashioned look. Victoria is possessive too, and while she might look hot swimming naked in the large suspended water tank beneath the space station, the operative word is cool - or even chilly. She creates quite an impression.
By contrast, when Jack discovers Julia (Olga Kurylenko) deep in a Delta sleep after her spaceship is shot down, she is the epitome of vulnerability and warmth. She knows his name and he recognises her but is unclear whether he has dreamed about her, or if she comes somewhere from his buried memories. He has every reason to be uncertain - after all, memory wiping every five years is mandatory.
We first get to see Morgan Freeman by the flare of a struck match as he lights a man-size cigar, but his role is badly underwritten. By contrast, Melissa Leo is a chilling presence as Sally, the ever-present on-screen operator to whom Victoria reports and constantly affirms the effectiveness of her teamwork with Jack.
Cruise, muscles bulging and charisma on display is fine as he plays out teenage boys' fantasies behind the wheel of top-gun spaceships, but the screenplay constantly frustrates. By the time the revelations start to pelt, my brain had ventured into the land of oblivion, disappointed that the promise was never delivered.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Full of seductive images - including one brief sensual one - of futuristic flying vehicles, weapons, wardrobe, furniture and a shattered Moon above a devastated Earth, Oblivion pushes the primal buttons of species survival for effect. The establishment sequences take us to 2070 or so, but not before a teaser in which Jack (Tom Cruise) seems to remember or dream about a beautiful young woman (Olga Kurylenko) but he doesn't know why.
On the job, Jack is busy with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), both on and off duty. She has his back at the computer console in the observation 'sky tower' that also serves as their home, while he goes on sorties to repair the odd drone. Now these drones are quite the stars: they are super smart, they fly very fast and manoeuvre even faster. They seem to have a high intelligence ...
So far so good, even though those of us not familiar with the Oblivion comic are unsure of the story, we are sure of Tom Cruise in action man mode. When the mysterious beings that have been mere shadows are finally revealed, our confusion deepens. I have a theory about this: writers who direct their own rather complex stories often are too familiar with the material to be able to really clarify it for the audience.
Morgan Freeman's character, Beech, doesn't help to clarify the plot, but his wardrobe has a post apocalyptic dash to it. Again, the visuals dominate as we enter the world where Beech and his entourage hide.
Andrea Riseborough steals the film with a complex and nuanced performance that manages to squash any questions about story, to deliver a wonderfully memorable character. She is the film's beating heart, to Cruise's busy arms and legs and trigger finger.
Both Cruise and Kurylenko have some cheesy clichéd lines, and writer/director Joseph Kosinski hasn't done them any favours in the way he's directed those scenes. Nor has Kosinski done us the audience any favours by bamboozling us in telling his story, which as far as I can ascertain is about humans not surrendering their humanity to ... not sure what or who. He tends to progress the story much like comic strip frames, slightly jerky and incomplete.
Darren Gilford's production design is clearly the standout among the departments with its often innovative solutions, while much of the score is busy being propulsive in predictable fashion, keeping up with the (too) many firefights. But the fans will have a different view ...
Published August 8, 2013
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OBLIVION: DVD (M)
CAST: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell, James Rawlings
PRODUCER: Joseph Kosinski, Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Duncan Henderson, Barry Levine,
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kosinski
SCRIPT: Joseph Kosinski, Kark Gajdusek, Michael Arndt (comic book by Kosinski, Arvid Nelson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Claudio Miranda
EDITOR: Richard Francis-Bruce
MUSIC: Anthony Gonzalez, M.8.3
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Darren Gilford
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 11, 2013
SPECIAL FEATURES: .
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: August 8, 2013