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Oblivion (Movie Review)


From engrossingly existential to plain ol’ dumbed-down is how I would describe the trek from beginning to end in Tom Cruise’s new movie “Oblivion” from director Joseph Kosinski. Overall, “Oblivion” is a good film, but not a great film. It does possess outstanding visuals (Chilean Claudio Miranda is responsible) and another solid performance from Tom Cruise, but the script towards the end, a combination between a novela romance and contrived plot twists, drags the film from a superb movie to just a slightly better than average affair.

The year is 2077: Jack Harper (Cruise) serves as a security repairmen stationed on an evacuated Earth with his partner and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat who still scavenges what’s left of our planet, Jack’s mission is almost complete. In a matter of two weeks, he will join the remaining survivors on a lunar colony far from the war-torn world he has long called home.  Living in and patrolling the breathtaking skies from thousands of feet above, Jack’s soaring existence is brought crashing down after he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft. Drawn to Jack through a connection that transcends logic, her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he thought he knew. With a reality that is shattered as he discovers shocking truths that connect him to Earth of the past, Jack will be pushed to a heroism he didn’t know he contained within. The fate of humanity now rests solely in the hands of a man who believed our world was soon to be lost forever.

The first hour or so you’ll be mesmerized by the futuristic setting, the uber-CGI effects, the alluring plot and Cruise’s star power. As the second hour kicks in, the movie takes an unexpected turn towards romance… and it stays here for the remainder of the film. Unexpected indeed. I wasn’t happy with this spin, but I understand that some others like these love narratives. I’m not a fan of it within a science-fiction framework. 

I don’t care how good you are as an actor, romance is tough to pull off. You have to have great chemistry with your co-star and the dialogue between both has to be emotionally raw, free of overused phrases and trite remarks. I felt Cruise and Kurylenko never made the screen melt and there were some scenes were the dialogue was just laughable. You’ll see what I’m writing about. So much of the film was focused on the romance that I was almost distracted by it. 

Nevertheless, that characteristic isn’t the primary reason the film doesn’t reach it’s maximum heights. Towards its denouement, the dialogue becomes vaguely “Lifetimeish,” the plot twists it offers are seem random and contrived and we barely see Morgan Freeman who we were led to believe would occupy a major co-starring role next to Cruise according to the film’s trailer.  

The factors that ultimately overcome the drawbacks are the core story of the last standing man on Earth, the graphics of an evacuated world with New York landmarks buried underneath rubble, the futuristic gadgets and the inevitable conflict Cruise’s character is about to encounter. There’s a lot of mystery in this script that is really put to the side in favor of the romantic diegesis.

Altogether, the good outweighs the bad. Even if I had issues with the story, I did enjoy myself enough to recommend it and perhaps se it again… but this time with my wife. I have a feeling she’d enjoy it much more than me.

Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity
Release Date: April 19, 2013
Screenplay: Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek
Director(s): Joseph Kosinski
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Film Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi

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