Director: Joseph Kosinski; Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo; Running time: 126 minutes; Certification: 12A
After a war with a race of aliens known as ‘Scavs’, our moon is destroyed and Earth wiped out by nuclear bombs. With the planet almost entirely uninhabitable due to radiation, humanity has moved up to temporary havens above the clouds before moving permanently to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Meanwhile, Jack (Cruise), a drone repairman with vivid recurring dreams, visits the surface daily to repair and extract resources, and upon discovering a survivor from an old ship that has been shot down, he is led to question the truth of humanity’s motives.
This is an epic on every level. From the grand ideas to the immersive visuals to the booming soundtrack to the flashy lead star, everything is big. Unfortunately, too much effort is put into making everything look amazing and sound incredible (and it all really does), and not enough is spent on script or character development. There are so many lines of dialogue that just sound out-of-place and forced, whether it’s trying to make us laugh or hammer home a point. I couldn’t quite decide if this was down to the script or the acting, which at times, despite the stellar cast, is a bit wobbly. It’s probably a bit of both.
Jack is the only character we see any real development with which is a real shame because many of the secondary characters are equally as – if not more – interesting, like Beech and Julia (Freeman and Kurylenko), and have the potential to be explored in so much more depth. The opening voice over by Cruise’s Jack, explaining step-by-step what has happened up to this point, lasting what must have been around five minutes, doesn’t work either. It’s too blunt, in-your-face and wanting, as if they didn’t think we could handle working things out for ourselves. It would’ve been much better had the plot and backstory been explained through the characters as the film wore on. Overall there’s nothing completely terrible about the script, but I think it would have benefited from maybe one more re-write to just tighten things up a bit.
The cast is surprisingly small for such a large-scale production. I didn’t actually realise until the credits rolled just how few people are in this thing. Obviously there are a few background extras in certain scenes, but the principle speaking cast is literally what I’ve listed above. In general everyone is fine, but like I said, there are times when they’re a bit dodgy. Jamie Lannister showing up was a nice surprise.
Much like Kosinski’s debut feature Tron: Legacy, Oblivion looks and sounds incredible. Filled with huge, sweeping shots and massive, shiny locations, cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who just won an Academy Award for his work on Life Of Pi, really knows how to shoot large-scale productions and capture magic with landscapes. Thankfully this one isn’t in 3D (although he did do a pretty decent job with Life Of Pi), but I never once felt I should be seeing it in an extra dimension. Everything was sufficiently mind-blowing in lovely 2D, and the IMAX was enough to completely win me over on the format. I’ve always enjoyed the odd IMAX experience, but I’ve never been as completely wowed by it as others; no longer the case. The soundtrack, too, is amazing. Very similar again to Daft Punk’s thumping work on Legacy; I immediately went home and downloaded it. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best part of the film, and almost worth the admission price alone. (Almost).
This isn’t quite the groundbreaking epic we all hoped for. It needs a lot of work on the script level, and it does feel very long, but it’s visually impressive and there’s an undeniable hypnotic quality murmuring on its surface. If nothing else, it will spawn plenty of discussion, which is always a good sign for a sci-fi. Cruise is in cruise control on this one, and his name alone should make the money back.