Tom Cruise in Oblivion
Aliens, Earth and Scavs, Oh My
As i am not a huge fan of Tom Cruise in general, I was in no rush to see Oblivion - his latest blockbuster thriller. It was that hesitation that ultimately gave me a pleasant surprise. Oblivion was easy to dive into, it was easy to relate to, and it was beautifully shot. These three factors in combination with an original plot, story line and psychological thriller undertone led me to the conclusion that I had missed out on a great piece of cinematography by putting off seeing this movie until now - and I look forward to viewing it again - and perhaps even purchasing the DVD/Blu Ray.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a repairman, tasked with repairing drones on the surfaced on a damaged, inhospitable and abandoned earth after a war with invading aliens. He is paired with a female partner, and they live as a married couple far above the surface. On one of his exploratory ventures above the surface of this damaged planet in search of a missing drone, he runs into hostility in the form of "scavs" - Scavengers left over on Earth's surface - and the audience is initially led to believe that these are the remaining aliens who have lost the war and are reduced to scavenging in order to survive. But are they really? Who is Jack Harper? Why does he still have memories of a time before Earth's (and the moon's) destruction? Who is friend and who is foe? As the questions gradually start to unravel and lead to further questions and fewer answers, the audience embarks on a journey of discovery with Tech 49 as he battles the scavs, uncovers the truth about who he is - and fights a battle for Oblivion against the invading and mysterious alien presence hovering in the 'tet' far above earth - a place Jack mistakenly believed to be "home"
Pros and Cons
One of the key features of Oblivion that makes it so unique is one of the things that makes it such a difficult movie to follow from the audience's point of view. The time in Oblivion is not exactly linear - it moves forward and backward without regard to the audience's confusion or clarity. In a way, this is a largely positive asset to the film's overall success. We begin knowing exactly what Jack Harper knows - and since he has voluntarily had his memory wiped prior to beginning his technician job, what we know is not much. As time passes, however, more and more pieces of information begin to become available to him - and to the audience at large.
The audience grows to know things as Jack knows them, and until the pace begins to increase about a third of the way through the film, this back and forth can leave the audience scratching their heads in confusion. As the film progresses, more information becomes available - but it's not until the finale that the final pieces of the puzzle start to come into play. I think that the filmmakers could have been a better job with this flashback in order to integrate it more into the meat of the movie. As it stands, it feels almost like an afterthought inserted in order to wrap up some loose ends and answer many of the dangling questions left in the mind of the viewers up until this point.
On the bright side, the audience is not left wanting for stunning visuals and special effects. the futuristic helicopter contraption that Jack works in is a stunning piece of equipment - and the sky dive free fall that he uses to get to work every morning is a joy (and a thrill) to watch - even on the small screen of a home television. The action sequences are also a joy to watch - although some of them are shot in an almost deliberate confusing manner to leave the audience guessing. The drones that Jack is tasked to repair and keep in good working order play excellent villains - and audience members who pride themselves on paying attention to subtle nuances in film will appreciate the information about them that becomes uncovered as the movie progresses.
Tom Cruise has certainly seen better days - and parts of this movie wax poetic with nostalgic undertones to his Top Gear days. I was struck by how worn down he looked - either intentionally by design or simply by coincidence. He certainly is beginning to look his age. Conversely, the leader of the "scavs" Morgan Freeman plays a hero/villain particularly well as always, and it was refreshing to see him step outside his normal range of rolls to embrace something new and out of the ordinary for him. Jacks' initial partner Victoria (played by Andrea Riseborough) was difficult to relate to - and the reasons for that distancing from audience empathy becomes clear throughout the film. Jack's memory/daydream woman (played by Olga Kurylenko) brought beauty and grace to the screen and added an extra bit of eye candy to an already visually stunning film. Film aficionados will enjoy the new and exciting plot in a genre that seemed (until now) to be slightly overplayed. It's difficult to come up with truly new ideas, and while Oblivion borrowed from previous film greats that have come before it, it brought unique ideas to the table as well - and I was pleased with the end result overall.
What do You think?
Have You Seen Oblivion?
Although Oblivion was far from a perfect film, it was a cinematographic masterpiece in its own right. It was a movie that caught me by surprise. I was prepared for an overly dramatic action flick, and came away with an understanding of an understated yet well played psychological thriller which leaves the audience guessing - at least if they can follow the storyline to its inevitable conclusion with all of the twists and turns along the way. I was pleasantly surprised, and it's a movie that I would be happy to have as a part of my ever-growing movie collection overall. It was beautifully shot, it was futuristic yet believable, and it drew me in and kept me guessing throughout. I definitely recommend it to science fiction fans overall - especially ones with psychological thriller undertones.
My Final Score
© 2013 Julie McFarland