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Review: Oblivion (Chris Bumbray's take)

Apr. 19, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: In 2077, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable after a long war with an alien scavenger race. Jack (Tom Cruise) is a technician, left behind to service robot drones that harvest the planet’s remaining resources. He lives in tower thousands of feet above the surface with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his communications officer and lover. Both of them had their memories wiped at the beginning of their five year tour of duty. One day, while on patrol, Jack rescues a woman named Julia (Olga Kurylenko), who’s a dead ringer for the woman that’s been haunting his dreams. How did she end up on Earth, and why can’t he stop dreaming about her?

REVIEW: It’s strange to say this about a movie that hasn’t even opened in North America yet, but already, OBLIVION feels totally underrated. Since its overseas debut last weekend, OBLIVION’s critical notices have been decidedly mixed. Everyone agrees that director Joseph Kosinski has made a film that’s visually striking, but nobody seems to think the story is worth all that much, with the common complaint being that it’s derivative.

I went into OBLIVION with that in mind, and I honestly wasn’t expecting much beyond a fun ride with some good eye candy. To my surprise, I actually got a lot more than that, with OBLIVION being an ambitious film on more than just a visual level. To be fair to the critics that haven’t been too keen on it, Kosinski’s film is far more successful visually than it is narratively, but even still, it tries to be something more than your typical sci-fi programmer, and for the most part I think it succeeds.

OBLIVION is certainly a more cerebral sci-fi movie than the trailers would have you believe, and it definitely feels like a throwback to the kind of pre-STAR WARS sci-fi of the sixties and seventies. In that regard, it would probably make an interesting double bill with MOON, as they seem to be inspired by a lot of the same movies, like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THX 1138, and SILENT RUNNING.

Like his last film, TRON: LEGACY, Kosinski’s OBLIVION benefits tremendously from an arresting mix of visuals and music. The cool, sterile whites of Jack and Victoria’s sanctuary are an interesting contrast to the vast open spaces of a ravaged earth, and the shots juxtaposing Cruise against the empty landscape are gorgeous. If you have the opportunity to watch OBLIVION on an IMAX screen, I’d wager this is one movie that’s really worth the extra expense. It’s all complemented by a stunning musical score by French electronica band M83 and co-composer Joseph Trapanese (who also worked with Daft Punk on their TRON:LEGACY score). If you know M83’s work (“Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” is a great album), you’ll expect the gorgeous electronic soundscapes we get throughout, although the score is never overwhelming, and can be effectively subtle when needed. It’s the perfect complement to what’s happening on-screen, and some of the cues, such as the track “Starwaves” (which plays during a love scene), are absolutely superb.

That said, everyone, even the critics that don’t like OBLIVION, have agreed that the visuals and the score are perfect. How does the rest of the film fare? Here’s where I differ with a lot of the critics. The story- which I can’t really go into too much detail about here without giving away spoilers- actually worked quite well for me. Jack’s solitary journey felt like something out of a cool episode of THE OUTER LIMITS, and I really liked the big twist in the movie’s third act that seemed to put a lot of people off. The key to its working for me is probably Tom Cruise’s performance. With someone else in the lead, OBLIVION probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but Cruise, who always brings sincerity to his parts, really nails it. Jack- having had his memory wiped- has no life but his work repairing drones on Earth. His sexual relationship with Riseborough’s cool and efficient Victoria is a nice perk, but even this seems like something of a necessity, and the only time he seems to be in his element is when relaxing at his secret refuge- an untouched cabin by a lake. Cruise perfectly plays Jack’s conflicting feelings about the fact that his mission is over in two weeks, when he’ll presumably go with Victoria to a colony on Saturn’s moon. Compared to his the larger-than-life Jack Reacher, this other Jack allows him to do some nicely subtle work, and his usual action prowess is toned down a bit, making him more of a working-man type, than a one-man-army.

Riseborough (W.E) is also very good as Victoria, taking what could have been a two-dimensional role, and giving it some pathos and humanity. She has a cool façade, but she hints at something more below the surface, and it’s some nice work on her part. Olga Kurylenko, as literally the woman of Jack’s dreams, has the more conventional part, but even still, Kurylenko is good and seems to be nicely establishing herself beyond her former Bond-girl status.

Of course, the three of them aren’t alone for very long, and Morgan Freeman shows up as a mysterious scavenger, alongside GAME OF THRONES’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Freeman basically plays Freeman, in that he’s the grizzled wise-man with all the answers. By this point, Freeman can play this kind of role in his sleep, but he doesn’t phone it in, and seems to be having fun.

Even if OBLIVION’s premise doesn’t quite work for you (and I can easily understand people going one way or another on this), at the very least it can’t be denied that OBLIVION is visually stunning, and makes for a tremendously entertaining two hours. But- I still think OBLIVION’s story has a lot more merit than people will admit, and if you go in with an open mind, and don’t mind an unconventional twist or two, you may get more out of this than you think.

CHECK OUT MY TOP 10 FAVORITE TOM CRUISE PERFORMANCES!!

Source: JoBlo.com

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7:05PM on 04/22/2013
Completley mediocre. Joseph Kosinski has the flair for fantastic looking movies, but he is not a good screenwriter. I'm not sure exactly how much input he had with the script, but it was all pretty boring. It picks up a bit towards the end, but feels like it drags on far too long. I was expecting to love this since Tron Legacy was fantastic, but I was majorly dissapointed overall.
Completley mediocre. Joseph Kosinski has the flair for fantastic looking movies, but he is not a good screenwriter. I'm not sure exactly how much input he had with the script, but it was all pretty boring. It picks up a bit towards the end, but feels like it drags on far too long. I was expecting to love this since Tron Legacy was fantastic, but I was majorly dissapointed overall.
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10:39AM on 04/21/2013
Looks good, but am I the only one getting tired of Cruise putting himself as the main character?
Looks good, but am I the only one getting tired of Cruise putting himself as the main character?
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8:05AM on 04/21/2013

Incredible sounding

Plus a great movie at That. I really enjoyed it.

My only question, is why do sci-fi movies always have someone with a hic southern accent. Seriously, I wish they would stop having characters with these stupid accents (Promethus anyone). This accent does not make an effective team.
Plus a great movie at That. I really enjoyed it.

My only question, is why do sci-fi movies always have someone with a hic southern accent. Seriously, I wish they would stop having characters with these stupid accents (Promethus anyone). This accent does not make an effective team.
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9:59PM on 04/20/2013

Loved it

I thought this movie was awesome. Had some similarities to a few other movies but since they were awesome movies too, that's a positive in my books. If you thought this movie was boring you're probably a michael bay fan.
I thought this movie was awesome. Had some similarities to a few other movies but since they were awesome movies too, that's a positive in my books. If you thought this movie was boring you're probably a michael bay fan.
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+4
5:25PM on 04/20/2013

Finally...

A review that I can relate to. Oblivion is great and surprising and a far better science fiction movie than Prometheus which seemed to get a free pass from a lot of people despite a huge number of gaping plot holes.
Great review - thanks
A review that I can relate to. Oblivion is great and surprising and a far better science fiction movie than Prometheus which seemed to get a free pass from a lot of people despite a huge number of gaping plot holes.
Great review - thanks
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6:56AM on 04/20/2013
The only thing that kept me from walking out of the theater during the last act was that I would have obstructed the view of people around for a few seconds so I just looked deeply into my soda cup, wish it had been booze.
The only thing that kept me from walking out of the theater during the last act was that I would have obstructed the view of people around for a few seconds so I just looked deeply into my soda cup, wish it had been booze.
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7:34PM on 04/19/2013
@kevinr1990 - thanks for the spoilers idiot!
@kevinr1990 - thanks for the spoilers idiot!
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2:30PM on 04/19/2013
I thought Oblivion was tremendously boring. The first hour is slow, sleepy and doesn't ever manage to catch attention. The second hour is quite stupid and there's a lot of nonsense in the script and the actions the characters make. I still think it's visually stunning, no doubt on that, Cruise and Riseborough are good but the rest brings an intense lack of interest.
I thought Oblivion was tremendously boring. The first hour is slow, sleepy and doesn't ever manage to catch attention. The second hour is quite stupid and there's a lot of nonsense in the script and the actions the characters make. I still think it's visually stunning, no doubt on that, Cruise and Riseborough are good but the rest brings an intense lack of interest.
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12:28PM on 04/19/2013
Tron, Star Wars, The Omega Man and Logan's Run were all movies that came to mind while I watched Oblivion. I loved the mystery and visuals. It's been a while since I've seen a science fiction movie with this much intelligence to it. It wasn't perfect but it was never dull.
Tron, Star Wars, The Omega Man and Logan's Run were all movies that came to mind while I watched Oblivion. I loved the mystery and visuals. It's been a while since I've seen a science fiction movie with this much intelligence to it. It wasn't perfect but it was never dull.
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10:51AM on 04/19/2013
A beautiful movie. Derivative, yes, but it takes a timeworn sci-fi story and does it very well (even if I did catch some plot holes, like the flight recorder). At least they're still trying to make sci-fi movies that are focused on ideas and story rather than explosions. Add to that Kosinski behind the camera, and the Icelandic scenery, and overall, this was a great trip to the movies. And how in the hell is Tom Cruise 50 years old? Dude looks damn good! That said, Olga Kurylenko was the weak
A beautiful movie. Derivative, yes, but it takes a timeworn sci-fi story and does it very well (even if I did catch some plot holes, like the flight recorder). At least they're still trying to make sci-fi movies that are focused on ideas and story rather than explosions. Add to that Kosinski behind the camera, and the Icelandic scenery, and overall, this was a great trip to the movies. And how in the hell is Tom Cruise 50 years old? Dude looks damn good! That said, Olga Kurylenko was the weak link in the cast, and Morgan Freeman had almost nothing to do here.

My full review is up here: [link]
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-23
8:52AM on 04/19/2013

Didn't like it...

I found a lot of this boring or dumb and most surprisingly, uninteresting visually. Disappointed since I'd been looking forward to it.
I found a lot of this boring or dumb and most surprisingly, uninteresting visually. Disappointed since I'd been looking forward to it.
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8:21AM on 04/19/2013
I'm still looking forward to it this weekend.
I'm still looking forward to it this weekend.
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7:37AM on 04/19/2013
I've never been a sci-fi movie buff persay, but like i said before obviously something caught Cruise's attention to do this movie. Thats what really has my attention & yes M83 is an awesome electronica group.
I've never been a sci-fi movie buff persay, but like i said before obviously something caught Cruise's attention to do this movie. Thats what really has my attention & yes M83 is an awesome electronica group.
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4:18AM on 04/19/2013

THANKYOU

YES CHRIS!!
YES CHRIS!!
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-25
3:13AM on 04/19/2013

WHAT????

how does a film like this get an 8???????? theres absolutely NOTHING original about it. olga is absolutely horrid in that role of hers. an ant could show more expression. morgan freeman and his character is so massively underused. they even got zoe bell and did a whole lot of nothing with her. this movie is a lesson in visual arts, thats for sure. besides that...its total rubbish. waste of time with nothing new to the table.
how does a film like this get an 8???????? theres absolutely NOTHING original about it. olga is absolutely horrid in that role of hers. an ant could show more expression. morgan freeman and his character is so massively underused. they even got zoe bell and did a whole lot of nothing with her. this movie is a lesson in visual arts, thats for sure. besides that...its total rubbish. waste of time with nothing new to the table.
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3:52AM on 04/19/2013
I'd argue that Morgan Freeman's character is over-used. It should have been a no-name, so they wouldn't have felt they need to add false significance to his role. Even with five total minutes of screen time, his presence is totally distracting.
I'd argue that Morgan Freeman's character is over-used. It should have been a no-name, so they wouldn't have felt they need to add false significance to his role. Even with five total minutes of screen time, his presence is totally distracting.
3:04AM on 04/19/2013

Couldn't agree more

This review is the one I was hoping it would get. I loved the film, can't wait for the bluray already.
This review is the one I was hoping it would get. I loved the film, can't wait for the bluray already.
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2:54AM on 04/19/2013

Agreed.

Just got out of it tonight. I thought it was perfectly entertaining sci-fi. There were a lot of shades of other films, but none of it was blatant or obvious. The score elevates the film completely and Kosinski shoots everything sleek, focused, and purposeful. A few minor issues, but overall, I felt that this was exactly why we go to the movies. Anyone going into this expecting some bloated action pic can save their money for Transformers 4. This is much more ambitious, engaging, and fun than I
Just got out of it tonight. I thought it was perfectly entertaining sci-fi. There were a lot of shades of other films, but none of it was blatant or obvious. The score elevates the film completely and Kosinski shoots everything sleek, focused, and purposeful. A few minor issues, but overall, I felt that this was exactly why we go to the movies. Anyone going into this expecting some bloated action pic can save their money for Transformers 4. This is much more ambitious, engaging, and fun than I had anticipated and the kind of sci-fi we deserve. Great flick. Look forward to seeing it again.
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-34
1:37AM on 04/19/2013

Booooooooring

The Movie has nothing than nice Views from Iceland. Your are waiting for 2 hours that something happens. 2/10
The Movie has nothing than nice Views from Iceland. Your are waiting for 2 hours that something happens. 2/10
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+21
1:08AM on 04/19/2013

That's better

I had a feeling we'd get another review for this film on Joblo.com after the first one got so disagreed with ;)
I had a feeling we'd get another review for this film on Joblo.com after the first one got so disagreed with ;)
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3:43AM on 04/19/2013
Check out The Arrow's review, he also loved it: [link]
Check out The Arrow's review, he also loved it: [link]
-35
1:04AM on 04/19/2013

boring movie

a very boring movie and overlong...
a very boring movie and overlong...
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