The end of the world looks gorgeous in Oblivion. From its beautiful barren vistas to the crisp “how the 70s saw the future” white sheen of technology, it is a beauty to behold on the big screen. The design aesthetic is distinct and lovely and something director/writer/producer Joseph Kasinski can be proud of. What feels less distinctive is the narrative, and while it’s undoubtedly solid, it’s far from unique.
The plot in one sentence: The ridiculously named Jack Harper is the last man on a war-torn earth; a drone-repairmen left behind with the last woman on earth as they prepare to meet the rest of humanity on Saturn’s moon, their new home.
The review in several paragraphs: Aswell as looking great, Oblivion has a number of things going for it. Tom Cruise is on very decent form and continues to remind us that he’s still got the screen-presence to place his name above the title. He usually has two ways of playing a character – action hero or everyman. He plays this somewhere in the middle and despite some occasional cheese, it works. The supporting cast are all fine, with Morgan Freeman being Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko being all mysterious and sultry. The standout was Andrea Riseborough, who had the more interesting of the female leads. Also, watch out for Jaime Lannister showing up and Melissa Leo doing a creepy southern accent.
Oblivion seems to signpost “TWISTS COMING” from a very early stage and so I spent most of the running time trying to guess them, to varying degrees of success. While the revelations are far from groundbreaking, they fit very well with the narrative and almost everything comes together nicely (despite some lingering questions I had). It’s hard to fault what is a pretty tight and well-told story, only to say that we’ve seen it all before. It would be spoilerful to mention every scifi movie that I was reminded of through Oblivion, but there were plenty and in the case of one major twist, it was worryingly samey. Some of the similarities are clearly intentional, but there’s only so much homaging you can do before anything unique is lost in a sea of reminiscence.
Despite this (and maybe because of this) pervasive sense of the familiar, Oblivion is well made, cinematic sci fi and is never boring, despite very little actually happening. Finally, it gained my respect for having one of the best final act one liners I’ve heard since the 90s:
“Fuck you, Sally!”
THREE STARS PLUS A HALF A STAR