It's the future, Earth was attacked and we had to leave the planet. We're the last people left. This is a fair assessment of the setup for Oblivion but also dozens of other films, shows, and video games. While Oblivion's story begins in a place we've seen countless times before, it goes off into territory that is totally original.
Kosinski has crafted totally mesmerizing visuals for the now desolate Earth. Monuments in Washington, D.C. are left in ruin and structures that once were apartments and offices now work as waterfalls into mile deep canyons. The opening act of Oblivion sets up and creates the world right in front of you, with the help of some on-the-nose narration, and manages to make it believable and engaging in a way that we haven't seen in a long time.
Cruise leads a very minimal cast that includes some very strong performances. His everyman approach to Jack Harper with a longing for something more makes him universally appealing. Andrea Riseborough on the other hand does a wonderful job of making her character seem distant and longing for something beyond Earth. Another highlight is Melissa Leo's purposefully stilted Sally. Her ability to undersell her own dialogue and present herself as friendly and cheerful with quick turns to negativity is something that can't be fully appreciated until the full scope of the film has been seen.
Olga Kurylenko offers little more than eye candy in the film. She is at her best when her character doesn't speak, offering subtle body language that says more than the words in the script can. Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are given little to chew on but steal your attention with every scene they're in. The drones in the film also serve as minor roles. They are brought to life with the expertly-constructed sound design that makes them feel like a cross between RoboCop's ED-209 and Darth Vader.
The marketing for Oblivion would have you believe that all the cards are on the table for its plot, but that is not the case. It deviates from the expected path at a moment's notice with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises that will keep you on the edge of your seat at times. The film is rooted in a world that feels like Richard Matheson or Ray Bradbury's works but often loses focus and begins to drag. Some beats in the story seem to force the arcs that Kosinski desires for the narrative instead of letting it all unfold in a timely fashion. Its pace is affected by this decision and really causes the film to feel overly long, even though it sits at a comfortable 120 minutes.
Oblivion stands on it's own in a sea of remakes and sequels to established properties as a very unique story with great performances, an enchanting score, and powerful visuals. The narrative doesn’t seem fully matured at times, some sequences feel overly long, others go by too quickly, and some supremely forced. What Oblivion does maintain for its duration are plenty of surprises that will keep you interested. See it in IMAX if you can.
Rating: 7 / 10
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