The trailer for Oblivion makes it look like a routine Sci-Fi movie set on an sparsely populated earth in a post war dystopian future. This in itself is largely true, but the movie is far better than expected. Even allowing for this I didn’t intend to write about the movie but felt compelled to by the sniffy reviews and mixed word of mouth.
Approximately sixty years in the future Jack (Tom Cruise) and his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the last two humans on earth. The rest of humanity has relocated to Titan after the world was devastated in war with an alien race. The pair have been left behind to maintain the equipment used to harvesting the planet’s natural resources. After five years, they only have two weeks left, while Victoria is keen move to Titan, Jack can’t help feeling something is wrong.
The first thing that stands out about the movie is the way it looks. Just like director Joseph Kosinski’s other movie TRON: Legacy, Oblivion looks stunning. Unlike TRON: Legacy that is set in a computerised world, this movie utilises desolate real world sets in America and Iceland sublimated by CGI. The technology we see is very clean looking and very white and reminiscent of Ipods. The are also countless nods to other Sci-Fi movies, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey. The plot however owes more to WALL·E, Silent Running, Moon and Saturn 3. Although Morgan Freeman is given second billing behind Tom Cruise, a lot of the film features just Cruise and Andrea Riseborough supported by Melissa Leo who appears only as a disembodied voice and an image on a video screen. They are later joined by Olga Kurylenko whose previous performances range from flat and misjudged in Quantum of Solace to mute but breathtaking and brilliant in Centurion. The whole cast is strong but the standout is Andrea Riseborough.
Co-written, by the director Joseph Kosinski based on his own (unpublished) graphic novel of the same name, the movie isn’t a remake, reboot or sequel (and it isn’t in 3D) and it is all the better for it. The plot is a little thin and has the odd hole, but the overall it works and more than satisfies the conventions of storytelling and the genre. There are no holes so big or points so ponderous to alienate the viewer and take them away from the narrative. The characters are easy to empathise with helping the viewer be immersed in the story. There are numerous twists and turns in the plot, some you will see coming, others you won’t but none that you be confused by. Its this combination complexity and simplicity that makes the movie work so effortlessly. The end is either perfectly executed or a contrived cop-out depending on your point of view.
How much you like the movie may depend on how much you like the genre but ultimately there is enough going on to keep all but the most jaded entertained. The bar has been set higher than expected for Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan’s seemingly similarly themed After Earth due out in the summer.