By Dirk Sonniksen | April 18, 2013
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writer(s): Joseph Kosinski (screenplay, comic book), Karl Gajdusek (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay), Arvid Nelson (comic book)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko
Jack (Tom Cruise) repairs drones that patrol hydro-stations on an alien-infested, war-torn Earth. It’s a good gig: Jack’s got a cool spaceship and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his gorgeous pair of eyes and ears back at the house/base station. Victoria has Jack’s back (via video and audio feed) when he’s out traipsing around a nuked-out New York City fixing robots. In addition to their working relationship, Jack and Victoria are an item, but they don’t really know why, though it seems to work out (hot showers together and dips in the groovy sky pool). Jack appears content in the beginning, but memories are lurking in the shadows, memories that plant seeds of doubt and curiosity regarding not only the origins of the alien war, but of the origins of Jack. Matters only get more complicated when a spacecraft crashes nearby, carrying a cargo that intensifies Jack’s connection to his past, and puts his future in question.
From that point on, I’ll leave it to the reader to see Oblivion. I will say that the latest Cruise outing is not a disaster, and if you’re into big budget sci-fi flicks, you’ll likely enjoy this one. Rather than basking in the formulaic light of most films of this genre, Oblivion does pull off a slightly indie feel, although that wonderful feeling does begin to wane half-way into the film. Whether or not Joseph Kosinski was intentionally going for that feel is up in the air, but alas, it is there! But just as I was feeling all indie, Oblivion makes its way into what I’m assuming is the meat of the movie. Unfortunately, the meat gets very Hollywood, very draggy, very predictable, and loaded down with semi-dull hellos and long goodbyes.
Initially, Oblivion fares well because it is light on cast, a tactic that helps to give the film a desolate, grim feel, which is precisely the feel it should have considering the premise of the film. With the exception of Sally (Melissa Leo), Jack and Victoria’s boss who instructs them by video, character interaction is confined to Jack and Victoria…in the beginning. Keeping the cast at a minimum and using some stark location shots gives Oblivion an intimate feel, and helps to solidify the relationship between Jack and Victoria. As Jack ventures out away from Victoria, his world and understanding grow, and subsequently, Oblivion begins to suffer that draggy, predictable thing I mentioned earlier.
As for the cast, Tom Cruise is less like…Tom Cruise, in Oblivion. It’s a bit difficult to nail down, but it’s almost as if someone told Cruise, “Hey, don’t make those faces you made in all your other movies.” I haven’t seen Jack Reacher, so perhaps I am behind the curve and the Cruise transformation is pre-Oblivion, but regardless, I did enjoy that he was somehow…different. To be honest, I have trouble liking Tom Cruise, but he is made for these types of movies, and he does them well. When it’s a good script, Tom Cruise shines, and this was a decent script, with Cruise doing his part to carry this film. But he doesn’t get all the credit, with Andrea Riseborough a worthy match as Victoria. Riseborough’s proper British vibe and understated businesslike beauty proved essential to creating the chemistry between our post-apocalyptic couple.
If Oblivion had delved deeper into Jack and Victoria’s relationship (I know — major script changes) it would have been a much more interesting movie. Taking that relationship further would have been fascinating, with perhaps, some of the later over-the-top theatrics revealed through Jack and Victoria’s dialogue. I was digging into the two of them, their house in the sky, the lonely planet scenario — and then comes Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman as our supporting actors. It’s not that the two were bad, they weren’t, but as the plot thickened, I lost interest. The relationship between the characters became flimsy and I so wanted a better understanding of them, with less emphasis on the ultimate goal of the story. I realize there is too much money riding on Oblivion for that happen, but a little more character development would have helped offset my annoyance with the last quarter of the film.