by Coop Cooper
I’ve been waiting since April for this film to release on video so I could give it the review it deserved. Sometimes when I catch a great film too late in the theaters it makes little sense to write a review at that point because the film will be out of theaters before readers get a chance to watch it. Now “Oblivion” is available on VOD/Blu Ray/DVD and I’m happy to finally review it since it’s my favorite film of 2013 (so far).
The film takes place in the future long after a war against aliens rendered the Earth uninhabitable. Jack (Tom Cruise) works as a technician, repairing defense drones and giant collectors which suck up the remaining ocean water to convert it into nuclear fuel. The drones help protect him and the collectors from remnants of the alien invaders known as ‘Scavs.’ Jack awaits discharge so he can return to the ‘Tet’, a massive orbital space station, which will soon depart for a base on the Saturn moon of Titan where the last surviving humans now live. He is paired with his communications specialist and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who coordinates with the Tet to guide him on missions. When Jack disobeys orders to investigate a downed escape pod, he uncovers a series of secrets which thrust him into a desperate fight for survival and make him question his purpose and existence.
This under-hyped film should have been a huge hit and it’s a shame no one could figure out how to market it successfully without spoiling the twisty plot. Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko’s characters can’t even be talked about without giving away too much and that likely stymied the PR and ad departments. “The Matrix” was able to capitalize on its revolutionary action scenes in its trailers without having to give away the big secret, and while “Oblivion” has some spectacular action sequences, the plot twists were stacked too carefully to reveal enough to get audiences excited. Don’t forget, “The Matrix” also had the advantage of word-of-mouth and I was definitely one of those people who kept blabbing to others that they really ought to check it out. I’m hoping “Oblivion” will at least have some of that success in the video market because I believe it’s too special to be ignored.
One of “Oblivion’s” biggest advantages is its visual style and in the theater it was breathtaking. The post-apocalyptic vistas were beautiful and the production design (costumes, props, vehicles, etc.) should win awards. Anyone who has played the “Portal” video games will notice it definitely inspired many of the designs in this film and could almost be a part of the same universe. Such attention to detail should surely gain attention from die-hard sci-fi fans and video gaming enthusiasts.
The acting is spectacular and Cruise gives the least hammy performance I’ve seen him given in decades. He seemed to take this role seriously and he must’ve had a strong passion for the story because it shows. Kurylenko is fine, never cared much for her as an actress, but Freeman is predictably excellent in a mysterious role that allows him to be both menacing and heroic. My biggest compliment goes to Andrea Riseborough who has the most complex character as Jack’s partner/companion who when faced with the truth makes some very dire human mistakes. She is flawed, yet seductive with a sex scene that almost rival’s the one with Cruise and Kelly McGillis in “Top Gun.” I think she’s got potential to rise to the A-list and I’ll be watching her career closely.
Director Joseph Kosinski cut his teeth as a major filmmaker on the “Tron” sequel “Tron Legacy.” While that was an admirable effort, “Oblivion” is a triumph of story, visuals and acting. There are fantastic aerial and ground battles as well as a half-dozen twists that add up to satisfying and unpredictable conclusion. The sublime electronic score by M83 is icing on the cake.
It’s release was fairly low profile and I don’t know if it did well enough to gain enough attention for any awards, but it definitely deserves a few. It also deserves an audience and I hope it will find it now that it’s widely available on video. I also get the impression that it could do well in the foreign market.
With so many poor summer films getting lousy reviews and making chump change at the box office, I wish original films like “Oblivion” and last year’s “Looper” could gain higher profiles and be more successful. This weekend, Neil Blomkamp’s “District 9” follow-up “Elysium” releases and based off of the trailers, hype and early interest it has generated, it could be the big hit that could make original, unproven sci-fi concept movies popular again.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars