Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Joseph Kosinski
I’ve been looking for something to wash the rather unpleasant taste of April’s shoddy cinema offerings out of my mouth and by Jove, I found it in Oblivion! Based on an unpublished graphic novel co-written by the director, writer and producer, Oblivion pays homage to science-fiction films of the 1970s.
Tom Cruise returns as Jack again – only this time he’s not a Reacher, he’s a Harper! Jack Harper is an engineer and soldier left behind on a ravaged and irradiated Earth in the year 2077. Alongside his partner Victoria (Riseborough), he is tasked to repair and monitor the drones that protect the gigantic “Hydro Rigs” that suck up what’s left of the water on the planet to be used for humanity’s new colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan. What are the drones protecting the rigs from? Scavs.
No, not the scoundrel who promised to pay you back if you bought all their drinks the other night because they were skint nor the dastardly rogue who constantly takes advantage of your generosity because they “need a lift” but in fact their bus pass just expired and they cannot be bothered to get a new one. No. THESE Scavs are the extra-terrestrial villains who blew up the Moon and brought civilisation on Earth to its knees in the year 2017.
Jack and Victoria report back to Sally (Melissa Leo) who lives in a colossal space station above the Earth called “The Tet”. Both had their memories wiped before the mission for “security reasons” (dubious), but Jack is constantly beset by memories and visions of an unknown woman (highly suspect). The stage is set for plot twists, turns and shocking revelations.
Something that stuck out for me in this film is the excellent work done on constructing a post-Apocalypse Earth – barren and desolate, yet beautiful. You’ll often get glimpses of old landmarks buried under earth where once there was a city and due to the film being shot in Iceland there is a high amount of daylight compared with other movies of the genre, giving the scenes in the dark all the more impact. There is one valley with a cabin and trees that Jack goes to for relaxation and to listen to a bit of Led Zeppelin when the mood takes him and it’s a welcome contrast, giving the picture all the soul and charm many of its sci-fi contemporaries lack.
Performances are all solid as you’d expect if you glimpsed at the cast except from Kurylenko who’s just as wooden as she was back in 2008 when she starred opposite Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace. Her performance is equally as uninteresting as it was five years ago though I can’t work out whether this is because her lines are dull or because her heavy accent makes it difficult to make anything she says very emotive. Maybe both. Her acting spectrum only seems to range from looking very fearful to looking as if she’s having a very distressing bowel movement.
I can’t really fault Oblivion’s ability to create tension and would cite it as one of its greatest strengths. Action scenes are exciting and well-placed. Just as you start feeling your attention could begin to drift off Oblivion throws another twist, fight or chase at you with good effect and with great benefit to its overall pace, which is just right.
I’ve heard a few people refer to it as a mash-up of other sci-fi films and in that, Oblivion fulfils its purpose. I for one got distinct flashbacks of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon and during one particular chase scene, Star Wars – all classics of the sc-fi genre. I’m unsure yet whether Oblivion will take its place among this prestigious collection but I guess time will tell.
For now, we have a gripping and exciting tale of bravery in the face of “fearful odds” and a lesson in the simple, old-fashioned pleasures of a good book and vinyl records.