Oblivion (2013)






THE SCOOP
Director:  Joseph Kosinski
Cast:  Tom CruiseMorgan FreemanAndrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo
Plot:  A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.

Genre:  Action / Mystery / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  126min
Rating:  PG13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Is it possible to miss a place you've never been? To mourn a time you never lived?”

Behold the vision of Joseph Kosinski and let it take you to another world.  He is fast rising as a science-fiction filmmaker with a bold and distinctive conceptual understanding of how sci-fi movies should look and sound. 

Oblivion, his new film based on an unpublished graphic novel he previously penned, is an excellent follow-up to Tron: Legacy (2010), his debut feature that impressed with its striking visual style but was lacking in depth in story and character development.  Still, it was an entertaining film with a couple of virtuosic action set-pieces.

In Oblivion, Kosinski takes his vision to new heights.  In Tom Cruise he has found a reliable star with a screen presence that commands attention, while pinning the story of Cruise's character, Jack Harper, against a wide canvas of routine work, occasional mayhem and the prospect of an unfathomable truth. 

Oblivion is like Moon (2009), the extraordinary sci-fi mystery by Duncan Jones, but with a much bigger budget.  Speaking of moons, the Earth's natural satellite in Oblivion, by the way, has been destroyed by an alien force, and Earth itself is nearly inhabitable, like the desertified wasteland in Wall-E (2008).

Jack's job is to repair drones that help to protect a part of Earth still not overrun by 'scavengers' – creatures out to attack what remains of humanity, but his curiosity leads him into a far grander narrative that has its fair share of twists and turns.  However, Oblivion does not function as a puzzle film that requires unraveling after the end credits. 

Rather, it builds up to a climax that is only logical, but it is the logic of the sci-fi genre that I'm referring to - the elevation of the narrative from the quest for truth to the enlightenment of mankind, as represented by Jack's engagement with his existence.

Despite Kosinski dealing with themes so well-explored in films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1972) and The Matrix (1999), all of which Oblivion owes a huge conceptual debt to, his film remains most striking for its stunning CG-aided cinematography by his previous collaborator and recently-minted Oscar-winner Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, 2012), and its sleek production design that lends a mild futuristic touch to the setting. 

If the film does seem familiar (besides the themes it explores), it might be because of the original score by Anthony Gonzalez and M.8.3, which sounds rather derivative of Hans Zimmer’s work for Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), though there are some interesting music cues in stored.  Oblivion is at best a decent sci-fi film that the mainstream crowd will appreciate.  The visuals and sound design will keep them engaged, though not necessarily riveted. 

In a nutshell, Kosinski has delivered an entertaining ride, though I suspect he will face a hell of a competition in the same genre from powerhouse filmmakers like J.J. Abrams (for Star Trek Into Darkness), Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim), Neil Blomkamp (Elysium) and Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) in the next few months.  As a huge sci-fi fan myself, all this points to a salivating summer.

Verdict:  Kosinski is a fast-rising sci-fi filmmaker with a distinctive vision and the boldness to execute it. 

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)







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