Sunday, 21 April 2013

Review: Oblivion

Rating: 12a
Duration: 126 mins

As per Robot & Frank, Oblivion has graced us early in a year that's packed to the rafters with films of the sci-fi variety. It’s without doubt a very hit-and-miss genre, as concepts, stories and visuals tend to borrow from its peers, the notion of originality within its boundaries becomes something of a rarity.

It’s also important to note that the script is based on Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel from 2005. (He also produces, directs and writes the film.) It's only now that the movie has come to fruition, which is perhaps to its detriment because to the trained eye appears to simply pinch chunks from existing movies (both modern and classic). However, this merging of ideas does form a perfectly acceptable, coherent adventure, but is also one that lacks any genuine identity of its own.

Yet to an extent I’d disagree with my own prognosis. I shan't reel off the numerous (and alleged) film influences, but upon a viewing some are fairly obvious. However, what is worth noting is the ones that're deemed similar were conceived after this, so use that information as you will. What Oblivion does do effectively is to create a suspenseful and intriguing post-apocalyptic world that not only looks gorgeous, but feels epically desolate, too. Conceptually, some vehicle and architectural designs are stunning: often rendered beautifully, yet have a ‘been there, done that’  aesthetic stamped over them. Tom Cruise’s Jack is, at times, reminiscent of his War of the Worlds character and indeed a hybrid of several of his past personas. Or maybe he’s just being Tom Cruise – either way it works, albeit with a helping of cheesy Americanisation at times.

What works are the intricacies and development of the plot. Many will criticise its unoriginality, yet it bears a couple of twists that’ll have you questioning (in a good way) the entire premise of the film's futuristic ethos. It’s in this respect that Oblivion thrives and invites the audience to decipher the real truths behind its plot as we experience these brand new moments firsthand along with Jack.

At times it lacks an intelligible depth and finesse in some of its action sequences, but never fails to convince in spectacle and execution. A great turn from Andrea Riseborough as Victoria – Jack’s partner in every sense, as the pair as stationed on a barely inhabitable Earth in order to protect and maintain its restoration after a victorious but devastating alien invasion – warrants mention as well. Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman have smaller, yet significant roles, but it’s Cruise’s protagonist that (naturally) takes centre stage, and his presence is undeniable.

Oblivion’s climax feels like a non-event. It underwhelms in comparison to the impending reveals and momentum its writers build up. However, the journey up to this point is a thoroughly gripping and intense one that should please fans of the genre and fans of the Cruise, too.