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Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

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After only two films — first TRON: Legacy and now Oblivion — I can’t wait to see what director Joseph Kosinski has in line for his future. It may look like all he’s got lined up for now is another Tron sequel, but even that’s fine by me. He certainly knows his way around visual effects and let’s face it, that’s all we’re looking for when it comes to sci-fi. Let alone the fact that he was able to get two of the biggest actors in Hollywood (Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman) to headline his sophomore effort, I’d say he’s doing all rright so far.

Oblivion begins in 2073 with Jack Harper (Cruise), aka Tech 49, having dreams or flashbacks of someone he swears he’s met before. He explains that his memory has been wiped clean of everything prior to his clean up duties on the wasteland that is now Earth. After a war against the Scavengers (Scavs) 60 years ago, the Moon was destroyed along with most of Earth. Stationed in a tower high in the sky, he patrols the ground with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), under the orders of Sally (Melissa Leo) for “The Tet,” while the lands remaining resources, particularly water, are harvested, and drones help patrol and destroy any Scavs along the way.

With two weeks of their mission left, a spacecraft comes crashing to the surface. Jack rescues one of the survivors, Julia (Olga Kurylenko) — the woman from his dreams — who has been asleep for 60 years. Jack takes Julia back to the tower with Victoria keeping a watchful eye on her. Julia insists on returning to the crash site to gather the ship’s black box. At the crash site they are attacked by Scavs and taken hostage where they meet a group of survivors lead by Beech (Freeman) with assistance from Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Beech wants Jack to reprogram a drone to send it up to destroy the “Tet” and tells Jack that what he thinks he knows is not all that it seems. It’s after Jack and Julia take a ride into the danger zone that ulterior motives become clear and Jack must face doing what’s right.

Kosinski sure knows the ins and outs of the genre, even if he’s wearing his influences on his sleeve. The Scavs are like leftovers from Mad Max. The drones come across as the love child of Eve from Wall-E and Robocop’s ED 209. M83’s score is an epic mix of Inception, Dark Knight Rises, and TRON: Legacy. While many of the action sequences play out like a Star Wars fan dream come true. Kurylenko may not be everyone’s favorite actress, but here she’s more likeable than usual. Considering most of the movie takes place with Cruise on his own, it’s no wonder he was cast to hold everything together. Freeman seems to be having a lot of fun considering his small amount of screentime while Riseborough has pupils the size of Jupiter and was probably only cast for a scene involving her rear end and a swimming pool. She’s rather annoying when she’s having casual conversation.

The show purely belongs to Kosinski however, and the man certainly knows how to bring his own vision to life. Oblivion is based on his own unpublished graphic novel, with final screenplay credit going to Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt. I’ve also read William Monahan had a hand in the writing department so it’s no wonder that the screenplay works so well. Some may have a problem with the film lending itself to a more emotional payoff but it totally works. Things are also greatly helped by cinematographer Claudio Miranda (hot off his Oscar win for Life of Pi). If there was ever a film meant to be seen on IMAX (for those of us with huge TVs, I hope this is the ratio released on Blu-ray), this is one of the best. And it’s not even in 3D! The bigger the screen the better for Oblivion, making it feel like the first big summer film of the year with a trippy blast of badass.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.