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Oblivion – Movie Review

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Oblivion – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

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With Tron: Legacy, director Joseph Kosinski showed an impressive handling of continuing a science-fiction 1980s adventure, while utilising his own signature style. Oblivion allows him the opportunity to create a film with his own original concept, while harkening back to 1970s sci-fi. The result is he now has two feature films under his belt that showcase him as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. Not bad for somebody, who up until a number of years ago, had only made television commercials.

 Oblivion is one of the most creative and original science-fiction films made in the last number of years, with Kosinski creating an incredible world. Right from the opening prologue, we are thrust into this futuristic landscape and the set-up is immediately fascinating in how questions are immediately asked. Kosinski is smart to leave a number of questions unanswered, though, which actually makes the film all the more immersive. Those who were bothered by the ideas left open in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus will be similarly frustrated by how Oblivion presents its ideas, but this is a director who understands not every detail needs to be explained. Sometimes, letting the audience jump to their own conclusions can be more exciting and result in a film that spends more time in one’s brain.

 Kosinski takes plenty of inspiration from the style and pacing of 1970s science-fiction, in how he addresses the inner turmoil and themes of this future. The screenplay is intelligently written in how it explores the concept of marriage and the odd triangle that occurs between Tom Cruise’s Jack and the two women in his life. However, most impressively are the twists and turns that happen, which further add to the creativity on display here and why the brain never stops functioning as plot threads are revealed. At no point did I find myself rolling my eyes at the moments of revelation or aftermath and even right until the end, the audience is left guessing as to why and how scenes happen. This just further adds to the richness and massive scope of the world Kosinski has put on screen.

 The visual palette Kosinski has created, as aided by Claudio Miranda’s cinematography and Darren Gilford’s production design, is also gorgeous with plenty of variety and levels. The sand dunes piled over famous landmarks and the Apple-looking tech of Jack’s apartment in the sky are a wonder for the eyes and even a homely, little cabin is beautifully shot. The visual effects work is stunningly done, too, mixing in a lot of realistic computer-generated imagery with some practical work on round killer drones that occasionally pop up to cause destruction. Whenever a drone appears, it is always a big “uh, oh” moment, showing how well the special effects team have done their jobs. The action sequences also pile on the excitement, starting with a tense and cautious trek through a dark library. Kosinski also spices things up by having each action set-piece be completely different, ranging from gun-battles to high-speed chases to even basic fisticuffs.

 For a film like this, the cast is primarily secondary to the entire scope of the production, but Joseph Kosinski has nonetheless brought in a solid group of actors. Tom Cruise is solid enough and he makes Jack likeable from the get-go with his winning smile and calm intensity. However, I think somebody like Nathan Fillion would have truly knocked this role out of the park. Meanwhile, Olga Kurylenko does an adequate job as “the other woman” and Andrea Riseborough, despite the occasional over-the-top moment, certainly fits into the theme of the film where you’re not sure what is going on under the surface. Morgan Freeman also brings that Morgan Freeman quality only he can bring. Oddly, stunt actress Zoe Bell appears in a visible role and is ultimately given nothing to do, but stand in the background and shoot at drones.

 Oblivion nicely avoids the clichés of the science-fiction action picture by avoiding the usual barrage of explosions and instead, focusing on intelligently handled concepts and not feeding every little detail to the audience. Sometimes, less is more and Kosinski understands this, taking a real page out of Stanley Kubrick’s handbook and creating a strong mix of visuals and thoughtfulness. I expect Oblivion will be a film that will definitely be rewarding on multiple viewings and could conceivably be the Blade Runner of this decade. Oblivion has that potential, if it has the discussions I’m certain will likely spawn.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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