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Published on April 13th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie

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Oblivion Film Review: Raising The Bar For Science Fiction Films

Oblivion Film Review

Director: Joseph Kosinki.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough and Morgan Freeman.

Oblivion is a film that will enthral you with its exotic aesthetics. It offers a tantalising glimpse of a future that our descendants may experience and wraps up its visual candy with a well-constructed plot and spellbinding narrative as it sucks you deep into its universe.

Oblivion is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Earth over six decades from now. An alien invasion has destroyed the planet’s Moon and the resulting devastation and retaliatory nuclear warfare has made most of Earth uninhabitable. Jack Harper, together with his colleague, Victoria Olsen, are two of the few people left on the planet.

Oblivion Film Review Jack Harper (Tom Cruise)

They are tasked with keeping drones operational in order to assist with the capture of the remaining energy resources from the Earth’s oceans through nuclear fusion-powered generation. There are still small pockets of alien resistance remaining that threaten their work. When their jobs are completed both Olsen and Harper will reunite with the remaining human race on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

‘ Circumstances take an even more bizarre twist when…’

Things take an unexpected turn as Harper witnesses drones killing human survivors in suspended animation. He finds himself shocked and dismayed when he comes across a woman, who has been haunting his dreams, hibernating in a stasis pod. Circumstances take an even more bizarre twist when Harper discovers that what he has taken for granted may not be quite as it appears.

Oblivion Film Review Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough)

Tom Cruise, never one to deliver a poor performance, leads the way as the film’s anchor. His Jack Harper is a heightened version of the every man. Harper is our surrogate, our means of entry into the puzzling and alien world that we finds ourselves immersed in.

‘We get the feeling that Harper is highly competent at his job but his life is somehow unfulfilled – empty.’

Cruise, a consummate actor captures our attention and draws us empathetically into a place where we experience his character’s turmoil. He presents us with what is precisely required for this film, a mix of bravado, can-do spirit and a sense of emotional loss. We get the feeling that Harper is highly competent at his job but his life is somehow unfulfilled – empty.

Olga Kurylenko brings feminine warmth and likeability to the role of Julia Rusakova. Fortunately, through both the writing and Kurylenko’s portrayal, Rusakova avoids the pitfall of being the stereotypical dislikeable female with the cutting smart-arse remarks.

Oblivion Film Review Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko) And Jack Harper (Tom Cruise)

What we get instead is a highly sensitive woman who is going through her own internal bereavement as she realises that the entire Earth and those that she knew have been wiped out and lost.

‘Olsen has no wish to engage with any form of Earth-based activity and she unnerves her colleague Harper on more than one occasion.’

Andrea Riseborough’s Victoria Olsen provides another addition to a very strong cast. Riseborough’s character is quite difficult to read. Innately conservative she appears to be running away from her previous life on Earth and wishing fervently for a completely new start which she has been promised on Titan. Olsen has no wish to engage with any form of Earth-based activity and she unnerves her colleague Harper on more than one occasion.

Oblivion Film Review Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) And Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman)

Rounding up a formidable group of actors is Morgan Freeman as Malcolm Beech the renegade fighting for his freedom. Freeman’s impact is disproportionate to the amount of minutes he spends on screen. Yet his abilities coupled with good direction provide an especially memorable introduction.

‘There is a slight sense of unnecessary deja vu about the film.’

As mentioned previously the visuals of Oblivion are breathtaking. The director and set-designer deserve great praise for the expansive world they have created and the manner in which they carefully choose to hang their narrative. There is a slight sense of unnecessary deja vu about the film. And some scenes certainly hark back to the days of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Oblivion Film Review Tower 49

Thankfully however, they haven’t gone too far in their pastiche homage and created self-indulgent scenes lasting far too long. Instead the viewer is treated to capacious settings showing both the beauty and the isolation of a ravaged Earth.

The cool, sterile environments of the artificial structures that Harper and Olsen reside in is in such stark contrast to the rich, textured, organic natural world of our home planet.

‘Oblivion is a melting point where great drama meets science fiction.’

The gadgets are also superbly entertaining from the electric-powered motorbike to exotic propulsion craft in resplendent transparent colours.

Oblivion is a melting point where great drama meets science fiction. As a film it fulfils it first objective – providing a good means of escapism but it also makes us think about our future and what life may be like in decades to come. Oblivion sets a very high standard for others to reach and in doing so raises the bar for science fiction films.

Recommended Viewing

You may wish to check out Yellow Magpie’s Top Gun Film Review: Can The Fascination Be Explained, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Film Review: Action-Filled But With A Cost and Tom Cruise Quotes: The Stalwart Of Hollywood.


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