Film Review: Oblivion

Saturday 8 February 2014 by

Oblivion, Film, Tom Cruise

There are two things I need to get out of the way before I even start this review:

  1. I don’t like Tom Cruise
  2. I don’t get it

I mean. I really don’t get it. Perhaps it’s because half the dialogue is so quiet and slurred I didn’t understand it (Tom Cruise complaint number one: he doesn’t enunciate). Perhaps it’s because the plot twists gave me whiplash.

Oblivion tells the story of Jack Harper and Victoria as they are assigned to a maintenance mission on the nuclear wasteland that is Earth. Over 60 years have passed since aliens invaded, and destroyed everything. The surviving human race live near Jupiter, whilst huge machines suck up water from the oceans to power the ships. Jack is left in charge of maintaining the drones, but is haunted by dreams of a past life. Before their mission, their memory is wiped, and these dreams are of a pre-nuclear-wasteland New York – one he should never have been to.

Here’s where the spoilers jump in, so if you haven’t watched it, you might want to look away now.

But when a ship crashes with survivors on board, Jack discovers the sleeping body of the woman who is in his dreams. But a drone kills nearly all of the survivors, save the woman, who Jack steps in to defend. And Jack quickly discovers that the “aliens” he has been fighting on Earth are not, in fact, aliens at all, but the last survivors of the human race.

Thus becomes a race to the truth – with Jack fighting another Jack in a confused battle of confusion, and Morgan Freeman standing in as the grumpy-but-hopeful leader, Beech. The woman that Jack saves, Julia (played by Olga Kurylenko), complicates matters when it turns out that she is Jack’s wife, and that they really were in New York together.

Except, it kind of was in a different life. And this is where I stop to understanding what’s going on. From what I can tell, Jack is an alien clone based on the real Jack who was sucked in to an alien ship 60 years ago…

I think.

Either way, he ends up on the side of the humans and sets off a big bomb on the mothership.

Everyone wins.

What’s impressive about this film is the artistry of the scenes. They are cleverly put together, huge in scope, and blend futuristic bots with an idyllic landscape, marred by the ruins of the old world. If it remained just as that, it would have been a pretty good film. Unfortunately, they had to attempt a plot line over it. See, here’s another complaint about Tom Cruise – he tends to star in very mediocre films. Now, before I get a flurry of “what about Top Gun or Mission Impossible?” protests, let’s get one thing straight: as awesome as they are (on a good day in a particular mood), they are still, ultimately, mediocre.

I wanted to watch Oblivion because I’m generally a sucker for sci-fi, post-apocalyptic films. But it felt like a thin plaster wall trying to hide what is ultimately a big-budget, directionless Tom Cruise film. And we all know how I dislike Tom Cruise.

The dialogue – the bits I could hear anyway – was badly-thought out (with the only clever bits being the moments of repetition to indicate something was wrong) and loosely structured, with very little context. The plot line meandered slowly with little explanation, then would take sharp changes of direction with no warning, and often no explanation after either. Like the appearance of another Jack. He simply was there, with no warning. And with only minimal explanation after – in fact, it was more implied that you should get it. But then again, maybe I missed something.

I enjoyed the brief flashback scene to Real Jack and the moment they’re sucked in to the alien ship, but it was brief, and I wish there had been more of Victoria (played by Andrea Riseborough) because she’s fantastic. Unfortunately, this is a film where you won’t get what you want. Just a lot of Tom Cruise instead.

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