Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Olga Kurylenko, Zoe Bell
Arvid Nelson (Comic Book), Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt, William Monahan
Audio Commentary w/Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise; Deleted Scenes; "Making of" Featurette; Isolated Score
It's not often that I find myself recommending that a film be seen in IMAX, but the simple truth is that's about the only way to see Oblivion to really get anything out of the otherwise formulaic and meandering film.
Based upon an unpublished graphic novella by the director, Oblivion has Tom Cruise as one of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth. The Earth's surface has been left in devastation after a war with the alien Scavs, but on one of his missions back to Earth Cruise's Jack Harper discovers a crashed spacecraft that calls into question everything he's ever believed about the war and may even put the fate of mankind into his hands.
Oh, that's all.
Oblivion isn't a particularly interesting film. It's sort of stuck between being an action/thriller and an intelligent sci-fi flick, but it never really makes its way far enough into the action to truly please fans of high adventure sci-fi nor will it truly satisfy those who like to analyze and over-analyze the meaning behind the meaning of their science fiction films. This is never a bad film, but it also never really rises above its mediocrity with the definite exception of being a truly beautiful film to watch that makes good use of its special effects and reveals the potential that Cruise likely saw when he signed on for the project.
Director Joseph Kosinski also directed Tron: Legacy, and it's pretty apparent that Kosinski has learned a thing or two since that film. He still hasn't mastered the art of telling a cohesive and fully developed story, a lacking that becomes ever more significant as the film winds down just past the two-hour mark. I enjoyed the initial story in Oblivion quite a bit more than that in Tron: Legacy, though this film goes on a good 20 minutes or so too long and loses its consistency of tone far too frequently throughout its running time. That said, it's a more defined story structure that at least gets our interest even if it doesn't manage to quite hold onto it.
The best thing about the film may very well be its magnificent original score from the French electronic band M83, a score that does everything a really good score is supposed to do in serving as companion to the film and facilitating its journey without dominating it.
The most unusual thing about Oblivion, on the other hand, may very well be that Tom Cruise is surprisingly irrelevant within the context of the film with co-star Andrea Riseborough really enjoying most of the film's emotionally resonant and visually satisfying journeys. The film's first half, which largely focuses on Cruise and Riseborough, is easily its most satisfying. It's not Olga Kurylenko's fault that the film really spirals downward when she arrives on the scene contained within a crashed spacecraft, but more the fault of a story that goes from haunting and hypnotic to melodramatic and meandering. If you really want to check out an awesome Kurylenko performance, check out Terrence Malick's To the Wonder instead. Morgan Freeman is also here basically doing a variation of many of his recent performances but, to his credit, he invests himself in the project and keeps his character interesting.
By the time Oblivion truly winds down, any fan of sci-fi cinema will be getting that eerie feeling that comes when you realize you've seen this film before and it's usually been better. In fact, the latter sequences in the film are such obvious nods to Kubrick that true sci-fi nerds will have a hard time watching them without letting loose a chuckle.
So, Oblivion is visually arresting and in moments exquisite while also being familiar, meandering, overly long and not particularly involving. If you're going to see it, 3-D or IMAX is the way to go but, in the end it's a film that may very well not be worth all that extra expense.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic