<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
For a much-anticipated sci-fi film this one hugely disappoints with its unoriginal plot and dreary storytelling.
When you go to watch a Tom Cruise film you know that you’ll get a certain quality and level of consistency both with his performance and the movie. Now the quality in Oblivion is up there in terms of the look and background score (by M.8.3 and Anthony Gonzales), but not even the stirring music can evoke any emotion for this lacklustre and predictable movie. Even Tom Cruise just being Tom Cruise like he is in all of his movies isn’t enough.
Oblivion is based on an unpublished graphic novel written by director Joseph Kosinski – whose Tron: Legacy was far better than this film in terms of grandeur and innovativeness – and you tend to wonder whether the being unpublished bit should have been a hint to the filmmakers.
The year is 2077 and you know the rest. Like mostly all movies about the future nowadays – either post-apocalyptic or dystopian – Oblivion opens on Earth ravaged by a nuclear war that was fought against an alien race invading the planet and ‘we won’ (repeated throughout the film) but at great loss to the world’s natural resources. So mankind built a space station and relocates to Saturn’s moon Titan.
But some resources have to be transported too and a skeleton crew of couple-teams are left behind to protect and repair fighter drones. Some of the alien rebels are still wreaking havoc on the surface and Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his teammate tech operator Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) must work as an ‘effective team’ to stop any halt in progress. They’re directed from the space station by Mission Control Sally (Melissa Leo) who comes across as more of an irritating cyborg than a human being.
The film’s first hour is one long set up establishing the planet’s state, the state of mind of Jack who doesn’t want to leave earth, of Victoria who desperately wants to leave and doesn’t bother to go down with Jack from their shiny apartment base in the sky and some mysterious aliens who you never see. The set pieces are all shiny, white and silver and grey. Jack’s futuristic helicopter is cool but just as lifeless and hollow as the film’s premise and storyline. Andrea Riseborough is subtly quite irritating and from the beginning you know something is not quite right. Are they clones or robots? Is the very robotic and automated Sally for real? Are there really aliens? Memory wipes don’t seem very kosher do they?
And then a 60-year-old space ship in cryogenic hibernation crash lands on Earth and Jack Harper (the name ‘Jack’ is so overused in Hollywood!) saves one of the crew, a Russian woman called Julia (Olga Kurylenko) who he’s been having vision of and who clearly knows him. At some point he asks her, “Who are you?” and in your head you’re like ‘Your wife’ and that’s exactly what she says!
Even the introduction of Morgan Freeman as a human rebel leader who picks Jack to discover the ‘truth’ does not elevate this film. In fact, Freeman must be there for just 20 minutes of screen time. Nothing about him or his band of rebels is explained. There’s no humanity to their story. I found myself yawning and shifting in my seat at the utter sterile blandness of it all.
There’s no chemistry between Jack and his two female leads. There’s no originality to the whole scene where Jack infiltrates the alien space station to blow it up. You think of Independence Day and realise how much better that was as a film, as entertainment and it was still bang on with its story and delivered on the thrills. You’ve seen everything and more before, done a lot better. The only good thing is the wonderful background score by M.8.3 but even that can’t save the film from being ‘forgettable’ (which as a friend/colleague pointed out is the meaning of oblivion).