I was pretty skeptical going in Oblivion. For one the film is probably the 30th post-apocolyptic film released year and this is not the last one. We still have After Earth, with Will and Jaden Smith (directed by M. Night Shymalan mind you), Elysium (firom the guy who brought us District 9) and World War Z (starring Brad Pitt and that chick from The Killing). But you can understand the public’s decision to see movies like these. If these types of films weren’t profitable, Hollywood would produce them.
We also live in troubling times where a post-apocalyptic earth isn’t exactly fiction. We have events like the Boston Marathon bombings happening at a greater frequency, some crazy dude in North Korea has the ability to push a button and destroy most of America’s major cities. Filmmakers have taken the task to try and describe what these future worlds could be like.
Here are #5Takeaways from Oblivion.
*Warning this post contains spoilers about Oblivion. Pretty much the entire film is based off a premise that is deeply detailed here. If you are planning to see the film, I wouldn’t read any further.
Who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist?
The film starts with a monologue by Jack Harper (played by Tom Cruise) saying that a group of alien life forms called “scavengers” invaded earth in 2017. The humans won, but in order to defeat these “scavs” the humans pretty much had to destroy all of planet earth. There are some places that are habitable, but many are radiation areas. All the other human survivors we are told have migrated to a space station called the “Tet.” All the humans have had the past five years of their lives wiped, even though Harper still has dreams of his time before the war. Harper is tasked with maintaining droids that protect hubs. The hubs transform the sea water in energy that is used by the Tet. Harper is teamed with a woman, who is his communication liaison while on Earth.
At the end of Harper’s stay on Earth, he gets captured by the scavengers, who are not actually an alien life form, they are humans. Harper discovers that in actuality the people who are running the Tet are actually the aliens, and they are growing thousands of “Jack Harpers” to perform his job. The film begs the question to really is the enemy. It is all about perspective. You may think that Harper and the “people” on the Tet are the good guys at first, but are they really? You need to understand both sides of the story to get the whole picture. The same could be said about America’s role in the world. Sure we see our government as a peacekeeping force, but how do you think other countries look at us? We might be the terrorists to them, while they are the freedom fighters.
Tom Cruise still has it.
I have really only liked Tom Cruise recently in his comedic roles. He is amazing as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder and in Rock of Ages (one of the worst movies I have ever seen), he also really great. But Cruise really returns to his action roots. It is pretty funny watching him fly a plane, pretending to relive his Top Gun days but he is able to pull it off. He may be over 50 years old, but he is still an action star to a generation of moviegoers.
One scene in particular that is pretty awesome is a Tom Cruise vs. Tom Cruise fight. After, Harper realizes that all is not what it seems he ventures in the radiation zone to find another Tech who looks exactly like him. Harper’s aircraft is completely destroyed so he has to fight against himself in order to obtain a new one. There is something inherently comical about Cruise fighting himself but it works. Oblivion is the type of film when you really have to suspend your belief about what you know. And of course he gets the girl at the end.
There are some great supporting performances.
As Jack Harper and his communication liaison are the last two people on Earth, there isn’t a huge cast in the film. But, those who are in the film really make their presence known. Harper’s communications liaison is played by a fine British actress named Andrea Riseborough. Riseborough, not as keen to Harper’s doubts to what is going on, is completely at peace with what her purpose is. She seems to really “love” Harper and goes by the book with everything. Harper on the other hands doesn’t. .He has assembled a small cabin off the grid that comes equip with a basketball hoop, record player, Yankee hat and Pink Floyd records.
Harper’s “actual” wife is played by Olga Kurylenko. Known from the James Bond films, Kurylenko is subtle in her actions, but is heavy in her emotions. She doesn’t need to a lot, but accomplishes by playing someone just plain confused about what’s going on. Morgan Freeman plays his typical performance as someone wise beyond his years as leader of the “scavs” or humans on Earth. There is also a great performance from Game of Thrones star Nicolaj Coster-Waldau and Melissa Leo.
It’s beautifully shot.
I never thought a film of Earth all blown up could look so beautiful. It’s really cool to see some of the destroyed parts of America and figuring out what they actual area. You see the destroyed White House, a smaller Washington Monument. How about a wrecked football stadium? You see that. How about the Empire State Building? That’s also destroyed, but it still looks awesome. Everything was carefully detailed and nothing is wasted. The shots in space look great and the place where Harper and his “fake” wife live is nothing short of remarkable.
Joseph Kosinski may be the next Steven Spielberg.
I know this may sound crazy, but I think it’s true. Kosinski is not new to the science fiction, futuristic genre. He made a Tron: Legacy a few years ago which I really liked. It was a bit campy and corny, but it was wildly entertaining. These type of movies don’t have to be that highbrow, they are just there to entertain the audience and have them escape for a couple of hours. They aren’t too on the nose, while being explanatory. They don’t tell you everything that is going on, but let’s the audience make their own judgments and discovers. The pace of the film is great.
That is exactly what Oblivion accomplished. I barely looked at my phone, I was completely engrossed in the film and could not wait to see the twists that ensued. Kosinski is a marvel. He wraps entertainment, political ideas and a love story all in a relatively short film. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.
I give them film a B+ grade overall. You should definitely check it out.