Oblivion is, so far, the surprise of the year. Very well written and surprisingly well delivered by Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough, most lovers of sci-fi and action will really get into this film. It’s also stupendously shot.
Here’s a trailer:
Released April 19, 2013
Written by Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt, and Joseph Kosinski
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Starring Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Zoe Bell, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
* * * * *
Jack Harper (Cruise) is half of the Earth’s clean-up crew. He and his partner Victoria (Riseborough) are stationed in Tower 49, a rather spectacular, futuristic glass home that is high above the earth, from which they base their operations as drone maintenance. Sixty years previous, the Scavs invaded and humanity ended up using nukes to win the war. This made Earth uninhabitable, so humanity moved first to the Tet, a massive space station in orbit above the Earth, then later to a moon of Jupiter.
But humanity’s need for energy remains, so there are reactors on Earth that suck up ocean water and convert it to energy, which will be used to send the Tet and the last of humanity forever away from Earth to the moon of Jupiter. There are also still Scavs that wander, so the drones patrol to keep the Scavs from the reactors, and Jack and Victoria keep the drones functioning. They check in daily with mission command, a woman named Sally who it would seem is on the Tet.
Jack and Victoria are due to finish their tour in two weeks. They are eager to join the rest of humanity. They have also had their memories wiped in order to guard against the Scavs capturing them and learning where humanity has gone.
Jack patrols the land, fixing drones and such while Victoria runs things from the tower. She worries about Jack and is very protective of him. And Jack is curious, so he regularly finds objects that hold some kind of allure for him and he gathers them in a private, quiet valley. Also, Jack has dreams about some woman he’s never met
Then an object crash-lands, strewing its cargo all over the crash site and Jack investigates, although mission control tells him not to. He finds cryogenically frozen humans. And the drones show up and start blowing them up.
When Jack protects one of the humans, he discovers its the woman he’s been seeing in his dreams. This sets him on a path of discovery, where everything he believes is challenged and he discovers that it is a truth that the victors write the history books.
The final act of the film is a breathless series of reveals that deliver on all kinds of promises made early in the movie.
First off, the filming and production value of Oblivion is just marvelous. Great set design, especially of Tower 49, and pretty much flawless world creation. This attention to detail in the production value is reflected in excellent writing, acting, and pacing as well.
Oblivion provides surprise after surprise after it sets up the world and conflict. These surprises are not out of the blue or unsupported by the story– they are excellent and fun. The truth of what is happening is wonderfully simple and the story line is exceedingly satisfying. Great heroic arcs, excellent conflicts, very solid dialogue– The writing is great. Just great.
The acting is also truly wonderful. Sure, Tom Cruise is playing his stoic, hard-nosed character that we’ve seen before, but there’s some unusual nuance to his work here that is very nice. Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman deliver good characters, albeit somewhat underused, that we have no trouble believing. But it is Andrea Riseborough that gives the film an emotional center, providing much needed emotional conflict. With her wide eyes and totally accessible motivations, she does a great job.
Oblivion is a great movie. Go see it.
Content warnings: A scene of sensuality, some language, plenty of sci-fi violence.
Writing: 5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 5
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