My requirements for a satisfying science fiction movie are simple – spaceships, aliens, big space/landscapes, flashing lights and a bit of tech. Oblivion has all of these, it also contains many of the elements that I have loved from a whole host of SF movies over the years. But this is not a problem, this is a cause of celebration. By packing itself full of what I love most about SF, Oblivion gave me two hours of pure delightful escapism, celebrating the genre and making no apologies for its gift. These days, cinema trips are an indulgent luxury. I can no longer go as often as I once did and as much as I would like to now. When I make it to the movies for a SF spectacular, I want my money’s worth. I got it today.
It would be criminal to give away the plot because it relies on a multitude of twists and turns, going full hilter before abrupt 360 degree u-turns. Suffice to say (and giving nothing away) that as it begins, Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are an ‘effective team’. Their job is to repair and keep moving the drones that protect the Earth against the Scavengers. For this is after the battle. Earth fought a war that left it victorious but destroyed. Its inhabitants now removed to Saturn’s moon Titan, the few remaining live aboard a great triangular orbiting station, monitoring the harvesting of the planet’s seas for energy. Jack and Victoria are near the end of their mission to Earth, living a futuristic, almost idealised existence, on a tower, high above the land. Jack flies out each day in his podship to protect the final exodus of Earth’s surviving resources. In the evening he returns to candelit dinners and romantic swims.
But beneath the pair is a decimated Earth. The planet is destroyed. The Moon split in two. The cities are buried or ripped apart. Much of the surface is off limits due to lethal radiation. But as Jack goes about his business he thinks back on the Earth as it was. It is almost as if he remembers. But how could he remember anything? His memories are wiped. Why then does he dream every night of the same woman?
Out of this, the story explodes. And you’ll have to find out what happens for yourself, ideally in a cinema seat.
There are so many echoes here of moments from other SF – notably Wall-E, Independence Day, Moon, Legend, Star Wars, Inception, Mad Max. That’s just a few of them. This didn’t bother me in the least although I can understand why it might trouble some. I liked the way it was done. I thought it was doing it to try and say something about science fiction. More than anything, though, it was simply magnificent to look at with a plot to keep me engrossed.
Tom Cruise was his usual efficient and enthusiastic self but Andrea Riseborough does deserve a mention (even if I did spend most of the time thinking she was Rosalind Pike). This was the secondary role. While Cruise is out earning his crust fighting baddies and getting to strut with a gun and enjoy the few bits of greenery surviving, Riseborough is confined in haute couture to a state of the art penthouse with no lifts or stairs. She conveys so much feeling with her eyes and I felt much more for her than I did for the other main female role, played by Olga Kurylenko. Another actor worth a mention is Morgan Freeman. He is perfectly cast.
We have seen the Earth – especially New York City and Washington DC – in an apocalyptic state on many an occasion but not like this.
The director, Joseph Kosinski, was also responsible for Tron Legacy. Oblivion is clearly a big step in the right direction from that. And, while it is no Star Trek (what could be after all?), Oblivion gave me all that I wanted and more from an afternoon at the pictures and was much better than most SF movies I’ve seen over the last couple of years.
Do take a look at the review over at Excuses and Half Truths – Rob says it all far better than I do.