Friday, 12 April 2013

Oblivion 2013

A friend recently asked, very rhetorically, 'When was the last time Cruise made a bad film?' and my honest answer was that I can't remember. It took a viewing of Oblivion today for it to come rushing back to me - it was 2005, when he bored me to death with War of the Worlds.

Oblivion is set in 2077, which we are told is 60 years after aliens ("scavengers") attacked and lost a war against Earth. But to win the war, humans used their nuclear weapons, which caused the end of the world as we know it, and the survivors had to move to Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Small units are still sent to Earth to continue with the excavation of natural resources - and Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), along with partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are one such unit, coming to the end of their term on Earth and about to return 'home' to Titan. But Jack is plagued with memories of a life on Earth he simply could not have experienced, and a woman (Olga Kurylenko) he could not have known.

When an unknown shuttle suddenly falls out of the sky and on to a site nearby, Jack goes to investigate and comes face to face with the mystery woman of his dreams. Suddenly, he questions all the 'truths' he knows about his life...and the more he learns, the less real everything becomes.

The biggest problem with Oblivion is that almost every scene and idea seems like a lift from another film. The first quarter showcases the isolation of the two main characters' existence - and I was reminded heavily of Solaris (2002), WALL-E (2008) and Moon (2009). In fact, as the story unravels, it takes up so many of the themes already explored in Moon, that the impact is completely blunted. Then there is the guerrilla army that shows up later in the film - and everything, from their costumes to their stance, screamed a mix of post-apocalyptic images already seen in films like Reign of Fire (2002), Total Recall (2012) and Dredd (2012). Add to that, Tom Cruise on a bike (very inspired by his first shot in Days of Thunder 1990) and Tom Cruise flying planes (Top Gun 1986), and nostalgia hits you hard! Of course, after a while I could hardly concentrate on the film I was watching, as reference after reference came to mind. Unfortunately, when I started getting especially bored and annoyed by the plot, memories of War of the Worlds hit me - and it was all downhill from there.

Despite all the criticism I can level at the writing and directing of the film (both credited to Joseph Kosinski, by the way - and he also wrote the graphic novel on which the script is based), the visuals are beyond reproach. The art direction for the protagonists' living quarters is stunning and the cinematography, whether it is for the outdoors or for close-ups, is arresting and beautiful.

I can't even blame the acting. Tom Cruise is perfect in the role. Everything from his confidence to his confusion is portrayed convincingly. He keeps me hooked for at least half the film, without complaint. Andrea Riseborough complements him perfectly - and her expressions, especially in the scene where she is covering for the man she loves, are excellent. And though Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (he really seems to have walked off of the sets of Game of Thrones, by mistake) don't add anything to the canvas, they don't take anything away either.

Yet, the film simply fails to connect with the viewer. As the plot thickens, it also seems to be stretched pointlessly. The story is so old and so oft-repeated, with nothing really new said in this offering, that I don't understand why this film was made in the first place. In fact, I spent half my time thinking that something unexpected is about to happen, because everything I see is all too obvious - and surely there must be more to it than this. Alas, there wasn't much more and the final 20 minutes were much worse than I anticipated.

I hate to say this, but despite the visual treats and Tom Cruise's undeniable star quality, this film has little else to offer. And as I walked out of the cinema, I realised that I have quite possibly wasted two hours of my life.


  1. you forgot to mention the falling down from up high and getting hold of something just in the nick of time... i.e Mission Impossible (all of them!)

  2. i did enjoy the movie till mid-point, all nostalgic and all, but at a certain point i had to go, no no no no no, don't do this.
    but yes, the cinematography was brilliant, so atleast enjoyed that!

    1. The longer it gets since I saw the film, the less I like it! What a lame film!