Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko
On the surface, Oblivion was a film that looked interesting when the trailers and screenshots began pouring in, but for some reason I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it. Countless films in the past decade have dealt with post-apocalyptic/post-invasion settings, and it took a while for Oblivion to make its case as a legit sci-fi action flick. The inclusion of Joseph Kasinski (the director of Tron Legacy) strengthened the temptation to give it a looksee; even if the film crashed into one plot hole after another, Kosinski could surely salvage it with his keen visual eye.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Oblivion takes place in the aftermath of a devastating war between humanity and a fierce yet desperate alien race referred to as scavs. The remainder of the earth’s population has relocated to one of Saturn’s moons while technicians such as Jack Harper (played by Tom Cruise) stay behind to ensure the protection of gigantic ocean harvesters by repairing defense drones designed to kill any surviving scavs that decide to jeopardize the operation. Just as Jack and his technician/lover Victoria are wrapping up their mission, a shuttle carrying humans in cryo stasis crash lands and Jack decides to investigate. The lone survivor of the crash, a beautiful woman played by Olga Kurylenko, prompts Jack to question his past and present circumstances, which may have long-lasting repercussions for the future of mankind.
Oblivion takes a while to get going; more than half of the film is spent establishing earth as an eroded wasteland, with traces of beauty that validate Jack’s fondness for a planet that he’s not quite ready to leave behind. It’s not boring by any means—the special effects and technology that are on display are nothing short of amazing. The contrast between the sleek and clean technology of Jack’s ship and home base and the empty landscape are a joy to look at. Once the story amps up the stakes by putting Jack face-to-face with the leader of a human resistance (played by Morgan Freeman), the film takes some interesting turns and lays the groundwork for a third act that brings a lot of surprising elements to light, with one of the twists hearkening back to one of Moon’s most memorable plot attributes. The action isn’t consistent but it comes in intense bursts which move the film along quite nicely.
As far as the acting is concerned, Tom Cruise has perfected being charming one minute and angry the next. These days, Tom Cruise is essentially playing himself in every movie he puts out, but it works. The same goes for Morgan Freeman; he rarely emotes, but he’s so statesman-like that you buy his performance no matter what character he’s playing. Olga Kurylenko is given the short end of the stick because she has to win the audience over despite showing up in the second act; she has good chemistry with Cruise’s character nonetheless. However, Andrea Riseborough turned in a much stronger performance by conveying so much emotion through her elegant beauty. Her loyalty and affection for Jack is genuine.
In conclusion, Oblivion isn’t the best sci-fi flick I’ve seen, but it takes an interesting approach and utilizes its small cast to measure up to all the potential it weilds.