Oblivion is pure Science Fiction eye candy and one of the best of 2013.
In a year that's already seen its share of films with plot twists - some very well done (Trance) and some which left us wondering why we bothered (Admission) - Oblivion takes this potential Hollywood cliche to a new level, blending the best aspects of classic Science Fiction, and reminding us that great new stories are still out there to be told.
As the Universal logo gives way to a tattered and post-apocalyptic Earth - ravaged by an alien invasion in 2017 - clean up man Jack (Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol) and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, The Devil's Whore) seek to keep a collection of automated drones functioning while the survivors of Earth rob the planet of its remaining resources. In the meantime, humanity has been hold up in a massive space station called the Tet, while Jack brave desolate conditions and Victoria keeps Jack from the clutches of the dangerous Scavs. These are the aliens who destroyed the Moon as a precursor to invasion, and who forced the world to deploy its nuclear arsenal to repel them. As Jack surveys one bitter reminder of Earth's destruction after another, he comes across a deserted football stadium where the last game ever to be played took place. There, he comes across yet another damaged drone and the savage Scavs, who later attack Jack in an abandoned library, apparently in an effort to capture him.
But Jack's problems don't start there: he's been haunted by vivid dreams of a woman atop the Empire State Building, and soon lands at the remains of the building where he apparently proposed to her. As Jack comes into contact with the human survivor Beech (Morgan Freeman, Dark Knight Trilogy), Jack learns that his reality is not what he thinks, as the woman in his dreams (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace) crash lands near his location. Faced with the possibility that he's been working for the wrong side, Jack and Beech hatch an elaborate plan to uncover the truth behind the Tet while he seeks the identity of the mystery woman.
Written and directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), Oblivion is a visual smorgasbord of wrecked cities, beached nuclear submarines with their arsenals spent, and eerily-desolate locations. Credit Cinematographer and fellow Legacy collaborator Claudio Miranda with these stunning visuals, who also makes the most of the beautiful sky-pod which Victoria and Jack call home. But it's also Kosinski's story - based on a graphic novel written by Arvid Nelson - that takes several bizarre turns and nearly seeks a contemplative angle before kicking things into high action gear. Most moviegoers confuse Science Fiction with Sci-Fi - the previous being more character driven and latter more reliant on action - neither of which in its pure form are that entertaining. Oblivion seeks a middle ground, and reaps generous rewards for its efforts. For all the snazzy special effects, Oblivion is really about a man seeking answers to his life and the results when he pushes too far to get them. Cruise, Freeman, and Risenborough have terrific chemistry, with Risenborough holding her own against the powerhouse Cruise. While it doesn't hurt that she sheds her clothes for a dip in a glass pool below the sky-pod, it seems like she's an actress whose star is about to rise. Add to the mix an excellent - albeit familiar - pulsing soundtrack by the French electronic band M83, and you have what Hollywood hopes will be a surefire winner.
At a budget of over $100 million, Oblivion will be hard-pressed to make that back before Iron Man 3 kicks off the summer season in just two weeks. And although early overseas indications are very positive, let's hope American audiences embrace this terrific mindbender. Do your part by seeing it in IMAX, as your senses will likely be thrown in auditory overdrive. Oblivion is another example of the Hollywood pull Tom Cruise still commands in assembling amazingly-creative talent into a superior production. For all the belly-aching by critics over its lack of story and their seemingly unending hatred for Cruise, Oblivion is stylish and beautifully shot, whose story celebrates the best parts of Science Fiction films from the past 40 years. The result certainly deserves your attention. It's rated R for nudity and has a runtime of 126 minutes.
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