The lights are on
I'm a sucker for post apocalyptic movies and am a Tom Cruise fan, too, so Oblivion was a no brainer choice for my weekend entertainment. The film, thankfully, exhibits some brains though its derivative nature can lack originality. (I'll avoid overt spoilers, though some discussion might indirectly reveal some plot elements.)
It starts out promising enough, with the decent premise of a man/woman team maintaining drones that protect devices siphoning Earth's water for use on humanity's new home of the Saturn moon Titan. The drones are to combat alien Scavs (scavengers), whose attack precipitated humanity's resettlement.
Cruise gives a solid performance as one of the technicians, opposite love interest Andrea Riseborough. Seemingly typecast, he is the rebel who takes chances against the protests of his companion technician. Melissa Leo plays their supervisor on the orbiting Tet space station.
Olga Kurylenko makes an appearance as an enigmatic figure but is more of a plot device than a three dimensional character. Indeed her performances in Quantum of Solace and especially Centurion (where she couldn't speak) were much better though the fault lies with the story/script.
Leo's performance also is troubling as it's ironically too true to character and, frankly, gets ahead of the plot. And if I sound overly vague in my descriptions at times it's because I don't want to reveal too much. But I thought a more subtle approach for that character would have worked much better.
Riseborough gives a standout performance although she's not given much material to work with. In a film dominated by female characters and strong actresses it's ironic that they are two dimensional for the most part and have little impact. That said, Riseborough is a revelation, as I wasn't familiar with her work before.
Cruise, as mentioned, gives a solid turn and at least matches expectations. But it is not his best work by any means. In many ways, it's a star vehicle and is reminiscent of I Am Legend or Cast Away, though pales in comparison to those performances.
If you're familiar with the trailers, you know that Morgan Freeman is one of the human survivors still on Earth. However, he has the least compelling role and, in fact, is more of a cameo as he not only appears few times but likewise has little dramatic impact. To say he's underutilized is an understatement.
This brings us to the story. It starts out simple enough and in that respect is similar to the star vehicles mentioned earlier. And it succeeds on that front, following the main duo in their day to day routines of Cruise exploring apocalyptic wastelands while directed from Riseborough in their cloudy refuge.
The film has been faulted for its relatively slow pace broken by infrequent action. However, again, like I Am Legend as an example, it can be an effective approach. Even as Cruise starts to ask questions upon the appearance of Kurylenko and, later, the human survivors it maintains interest.
In fact, it's at its most compelling when as a character study involving Cruise, Riseborough and Kurylenko. And while the unfolding story frames an interesting context, it starts to unravel as a more standard science fiction narrative.
Here, I was going to mention a couple films it reminds me of, however, the mere mention of them might spoil critical plot elements so I'll only say that one was a foreign film from a few years ago and the other was a '90s American film.
These similarities proved distracting enough, though the overall plot is still competent if not original. There are some potential plot holes though in some cases they can be excused in retrospect.
A quick word about the production values. Critics have suggested the movie is style over substance, and to a degree they're not far off. The technical achievements are impressive, helping establish a believable environment for the characters and story to develop.
From the art design, whether vehicles/drones, habitat, wardrobe, devices or post apocalyptic settings, to the special effects and sound, including drone animation, weapons fire, explosions, and stunt work/CGI, the futuristic vision is well conceived.
So, overall it's a decent science fiction adventure film that's well executed and entertaining despite two-dimensional characters, has a strong cast that gives relatively middling performances, and has a compelling premise despite some derivative elements.
No, it's not a ringing endorsement. LOL. For most, I'd recommend a rental. But if you're a die hard sci-fi enthusiast and can keep your expectations in check, you might enjoy seeing it in a theater. For the record, I did enjoy it and might even purchase it down the road, but it's not top tier entertainment, or the best work for those involved.
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Nice review. I watched it the other day and was pretty bored for most of the movie. There were a few scenes that felt a little unnecessary to me. I did like the ending though.
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