Review: Oblivion / Cert: 12A / Director: Joseph Kosinski / Screenplay: Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt / Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough / Release Date: Out Now
TRON: Legacy, Joseph Kosinski's debut feature, was an extraordinary cinematic experience let down by a basic, near-robotic handling of story and a bland lead. For Oblivion, he’s roped in Mr Star Wattage Charisma Inc. himself – that’s Tom Cruise – but the director’s handling of plot still isn’t as finessed as it could be.
Kosinski is the spiritual love child of Ridley Scott: conceived in an ad agency and birthed in cinema. They may suffer the same artistic affliction when it comes to storytelling but neither lets the material fail completely. Oblivion, of course, is feast for the eyes. A wondrous spectacle, especially in IMAX, there’s much to enjoy and savour. Claudio Miranda, a recent Oscar-winner for his work on The Life of Pi, paints with light landscapes and interiors of neutral tones – greys and whites, mostly – with carefully and expertly managed use of colour.
Oblivion is yet another modern sci-fi picture influenced by the design aesthetic of Apple. The future is made of iPods! Ito Morabito’s work for French electro group Air, specifically the album cover for 10,000 Hz Legend (2001), seems to be another reference point. The scale and attention to detail is nothing short of breathtaking with primordial Icelandic vistas – a natural landscape heightened with seamless special effects.
The year is 2077. The human race has successfully defeated an alien invasion via the use of devastating nuclear weapons, and Jack Harper (Cruise) is waiting out his last tour of duty on our ravaged world as a maintenance technician. “We won the war, but lost the planet,” he tells us in voice over during the opening moments. Accompanying him is Victoria (Riseborough), a by-the-book colleague. Both are haunted by memories of past lives, though only Jack is inquisitive enough to act upon these nagging thoughts. What unfolds spells peril for them both and the other characters with whom they come into contact.
Based on an unpublished graphic novel by Joe Kosinski and reworked by several hands (rumour has it William Monahan and Michael Ardnt submitted drafts), Oblivion is pulp fiction with a blockbuster budget. The actors have to chew on a fair bit of expository dialogue, but only enough to help the audience keep up with the plot's various twists and turns, and the injection of paranoia into proceedings midway into the second act recalls Philip K. Dick’s writings.
Exciting, action-packed and complemented by production design that will blow your mind, Oblivion is an exquisite sci-fi adventure that needs to be viewed on the biggest screen possible.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10