It is far too easy to bring mediocre expectations to Oblivion, and to be down on the new Tom Cruise SciFi vehicle. Far too easy because, well, it has the vertically-challenged, Scientology-worshipping Mr Cruise in it.
But let’s put our prejudices aside for a few moments and look at the film as a whole.
To name similarities to other SciFi films would be spoileresque so I won’t go there.
But if you have enjoyed the 2009 SciFi film ‘****’ by ****** ***** (no relation), the wooden-actor-led 1999 SciFi epic ‘*** *****’, and, obliquely, the 1989 SciFi thriller ‘Slipstream’, you should love Oblivion. (I mention ‘Slipstream’ in full, here, purely for the similarity to the Oblivion aerial sequences, and not in any way related to the plot).
Oblivion is a big budget film production, that has been lovingly shot and beautifully edited. If you want an example of beautiful (audio) editing, the Procul Harum scene is work of solid gold, the near-seamless musical edit only drops the beat from Whiter Shade of Pale once, and that is the merest falter of just 1/10th of a second.
The aerial sequences are a nice blend of CGI and real-time action (and very reminiscent of the ground-breaking flight sequences in the above mentioned ‘Slipstream’). Oblivion uses a VTOL aircraft, broadly similar to the stunningly visual Brookland Aerospace Optica OA7 that was used in ‘Slipstream’.
So, the plot:
The Oblivion backstory is covered in a succinct voice-over in the opening minutes of the film: Earth has been attacked by alien invaders (Scavs, short for ‘scavengers’). The moon was destroyed in the attack. This event caused earthquakes and tidal waves down on Earth, that shifted land-masses and caused widespread death and destruction.
In the ensuing fight-back, mankind deployed nuclear weapons and beat back the invading Scavs and, in so using nuclear weapons, we won the war but lost the planet (a little bit of sermonising on the whole viability of the nuclear weapon philosophy there).
The environmental cost of the war left behind a devastated planet incapable of supporting mankind. This left humanity with one option, to saddle up, get out of town, and head in the general direction of another place to live. Mankind is all aboard one enormous mothership (The Tet), waiting for our precious oceans, which are required to provide fuel for the massive journey, to be sucked up by…
However there are surviving pockets of Scavs still on the surface. They harass the hell out of the general ‘leaving Earth’ operation, so heavily armored drones are deployed to keep the pesky Scavs at bay.
Jack Harper (played by Tom Cruise) is a drone technician and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) is his communications link with the Tet HQ.
There you go. That’s the full story. Or is it? Erm, no. But you’ll have to watch the film for the rest of it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Oblivion.
Tom Cruise does what Tom Cruise does, and he does it very well. Andrea Riseborough’s character balances compassion and rule-following with aplomb.
The post, near-apocalyptic, storyline allows some very nice ‘destroyed, but instantly recognisable’ locations to be used as backdrops. And the whole film is (in a belief-suspending-kind-of-way) believable.
Oblivion delivers a nice ride. It isn’t ground-breaking (see ‘****’, ‘*** ******’, etc), and Oblivion isn’t genre-defining. But Oblivion is a big bundle of SciFi fun!
(despite it only taking me 28 minutes to guess the plot, the subplot and most of the twists)