17 April 2013

Review: Oblivion

(Dir: Joseph Kosinski, 2013)

How easy is it to separate the real life of an actor from the characters we see them portray on screen? It's a particularly pertinent question when debating Tom Cruise and his frankly mental seeming personal life / "religious beliefs", or whatever fanciful term you put on it (providing it doesn't irk those excessively litigious types crying defamation). Should any of that matter and stop you from being excited about or watching his films? Personally I think no. Cruise is still one of the most engaging leading men in the business and that shows no signs of changing - just look at any of his recent work. He also signifies something very "Hollywood", which I mean in the positive terms of high quality, slick entertainment, which is always happily welcomed. And for someone who's been in the industry for over thirty years, see if you can actually even name five bad films he's been in.

So to his newest film, Oblivion. It's 2077 and Earth is decimated following an alien invasion seventy years earlier - mankind may have won but had to abandon the planet. Remnants of the invaders are still hidden and drones patrol protecting remaining tech. Jack (Cruise) is a drone repairman working with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who live in and operate out of a station above the clouds within their sector. But something crashes to Earth that leads Jack to challenge everything he knows and the effectiveness of his team.

The first point to make is how satisfying it is to see an original big budget sci-fi film, as they don't seem to come along too often these days. You may read in the credits that it's based on a graphic novel, but that's something director Joseph Kosinski created in order to get the film made. In the grand tradition of the best sci-fi Oblivion is a fantastic looking film. The barren, bleak Earth and the pointed remains of landmarks contrast perfectly with the slick, clean futuristic design of the drones, Jack's spaceship and the stunning living quarters above the clouds. It's something of a widescreen visual treat and the confident production design is convincing.

Cruise is, as you'd expect, his usual reliable self, offering nothing ground breaking or that particularly different. Sure Jack lacks the personality traits of an Ethan Hunt or Jack Reacher, but he's still an interesting lead and eminently watchable, despite the film at times veering into "Tom Cruise worship" territory. Riseborough is the next most prevalent person in Oblivion and she constantly leaves you wondering what's behind the clinical, steely veneer. Both Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman pop up along the way but neither are particularly memorable.

More important in a film like this is how the story functions. The idea itself is excellent and in terms of delivery it's mostly successful, at times benefiting from an appealing sense of mystery. One of the big reveals feels like a massive facepalm moment, but it manages to bring it back round positively. There are still plotholes and a couple of lapses in science but these can be easy to forgive, although the film does end up showing too many flashbacks which only serve to distract from the more interesting scenes set in 2077. What however is entirely successful is the soundtrack by M83, which is the one element that makes Oblivion fly. Suitably electronic to have a futuristic feel that satisfyingly merges with the more composed elements of the score, it's constant rippling undercurrent feels like the glue that holds the film together. But this should come as no surprise considering Kosinski had Daft Punk score his last film TRON: Legacy, which quite frankly was a match made in heaven. Sometimes it's these smaller details that make all the difference.

Kosinski was the right director for Oblivion. He nails the look, sound and feel of it, whilst successfully shepherding an interesting story that delivers when required too. Cruise is Cruise and that of course is absolutely fine as he's always good to watch. Oblivion's a decent sci-fi film; it's not revolutionary but it's definitely a very entertaining two hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment