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Science Fiction Fans Looking For Solid Action Will Find It In 'Oblivion'

By Anthony Taormina
Released: April 19, 2013
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Synopsis
In the year 2077, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) works as a security repairman on an Earth left empty and devastated after a war with aliens. Jack has two weeks left before his mission ends and he joins his fellow survivors on a faraway colony. However, Jack's concept of reality comes crashing down after he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft. The woman's arrival triggers a chain of events that culminates in Jack's nearly single-handed battle to save mankind.
Film Review
Production
In Oblivion, director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) teams up with Tom Cruise to deliver a satisfying entry in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre. Kosinski's keen visual eye and Cruise's magnetic on-screen presence could fuel any movie, but the fact that Oblivion's story is one worth slowly discovering makes the film all the more engaging.

Set nearly 70 years in the future, Oblivion imagines an Earth where humanity won the war but lost the planet. That war was fought against an invading race of "creatures" called Scavs, which still occupy the planet in small packs. Cruise's character, Jack Harper, is a maintenance man - left on Earth with his confidant Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) as the mop up crew. Day in and day out Harper heads out into the barren wasteland of Earth to repair security droids, while Victoria reports to the rest of humanity through a floating monolith called the Tet.

There's a lot of set-up in Oblivion - establishing the way things were and how they are in the year 2077 - but the film does a solid job of laying all the requisite pieces on the board. The film's opening narration is a little clunky, but after that things unfold in a very natural way. You learn the importance of the droids, why Earth is still valuable, and that Harper still has some memories before his mandatory security wipe. And when he discovers all he thought he knew is not what it seems (you know, that old sci-fi chestnut), the film really kicks into gear.

Ultimately, what Harper discovers and where the story goes isn't exactly uncharted territory, but the journey is compelling enough to make the film worthwhile. What Cruise's character learns, and what that forces him to do, leads to some pretty thrilling action, and discoveries that most will not see coming. Yes, at times the film treads water, trying to ensure audiences get the full story, but that doesn't diminish the overall product too much. Oblivion is the type of sci-fi action movie that doesn't push boundaries or try to blow any minds, but it does entertain and engage from beginning to end.
Writing
Even without its action, Oblivion has a story (scripted by Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt) that is fun to pick apart and slowly unravel. The central "twist" isn't terribly original, but the various pieces that go into making that twist pay off are unexpected and creative. The film could have easily been a by the numbers post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure and that would have likely been enough, especially with Tom Cruise riding shotgun and Kosinski's keen visual eye, but the story keeps the general sense of discovery going.

Even after the film sets the stage, there's still plenty more to discover about Oblivion. As it feeds new information, you want to know more, and you want to see how Cruise's character will react to a change in the status quo. This isn't hard sci-fi by any means, but if you keep your mind set to a nice medium level of inquisition you'll enjoy the journey.
Action Sequences
For as much as Kosinski might be a filmmaking novice (this is his second film), he certainly has an eye for action. The way the film juxtaposes the pristine design of the future tech with the harsh, barren wasteland of Earth circa 2077 makes for some very beautiful cinematography, and some very pretty action. Kosinski choreographs the film's action so everything is clear, and the audience always has a general sense of who is where at any given time. Oblivion's greatest strength are its chase sequences, which are a fantastic combination of explosions, speed, and balletic movement.

The best thing about the film is that as soon things get a little too heavy on exposition, the film picks up with a nicely paced action scene. And, as usual, Tom Cruise gives the film his all, performing most, if not all, of his stunts. Oblivion packs plenty of high-speed spaceship chases and futuristic shootouts, and one of the best Tom Cruise fistfights ever. Sci-fi fans looking for solid action will find it here.



Genres
Action, Science Fiction
Release Date
April 19, 2013
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