Netflix UK film review: Oblivion
Philip W Bayles | On 19, Aug 2013
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Watch Oblivion online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV Store / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Wuaki.tv / Google Play
Joseph Kosinski got a dream directorial debut when he was approached to direct Tron: Legacy. For the most part, he pulled it off. The script had its problems, sure, but it was a solid, enjoyable action movie with a great soundtrack by Daft Punk and some absolutely stunning visuals.
So expectations were high when Kosinski began work on his second movie, Oblivion, based on an unpublished graphic novel that he wrote himself. Unfortunately, the result merely makes the same mistakes again – only much worse. Oblivion is a movie with one-dimensional characters and a bloated screenplay that’s both predictable and mind-numbingly stupid.
In an opening five-minute barrage of exposition, we’re told that in the not-too-distant future an alien invasion destroyed the moon, at which point a combination of natural disasters and nuclear holocausts made Earth virtually uninhabitable. Most of humanity has left for Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, leaving behind giant monoliths that convert seawater into energy.
The only two people left on the planet are Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner/lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Jack’s job is to pootle around the planet like a cross between Maverick and Wall-E, taking care of the automated drones that survey the wastelands and counting down the days to retirement. But when he finds a survivor (Olga Kurylenko) cryogenically frozen on Earth, he uncovers the shocking truth about what really happened to the planet.
Or rather, it would be shocking if it weren’t a reheated serving of about half a dozen different sci-fi movies; a dash of Aeon Flux there, a great big chunk of The Matrix there, and seasoned with light sprinklings of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s packed with the kind of twists many blockbusters seem to view as compulsory these days, which are telegraphed half an hour before they arrive and, when they do appear, only serve to create enormous plot holes in a narrative that was bordering on silly to begin with.
It doesn’t help that the characters are cut from the broadest of cloths. Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper as Tom Cruise in a white jumpsuit. Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko are given the most trite of dramatic tensions when they meet, and Morgan Freeman does little more than smoke cigars, spout back-story and generally look like a bad-ass.
In fairness, while his writing is atrocious, Kosinski does prove he has an eye for spectacle. Filming on location in Iceland makes the ravaged, war-torn planet feel more real than green screen ever could, while the drones, Jack’s aircraft and his sleek condo in the sky are extremely well-designed. He also handles the action reasonably well, and some of the aerial battles with the drones manage to become almost interesting. But just as Oblivion starts to take flight, it’s never long before another character opens their mouth to reveal another plot twist, and we’re yanked back to Earth by the choke chain of stupidity.
Oblivion is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.