North Texas Daily

Review: ‘Oblivion’ aesthetically pleasing but unoriginal

Review: ‘Oblivion’ aesthetically pleasing but unoriginal

April 19
11:24 2013

Preston Barta

Film Critic

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

While often gripping and visually striking, Tom Cruise’s new sci-fi adventure, “Oblivion,” fails to live up to its potential. The film suffers from a thinly written script that borrows from every great science fiction movie from the past 50 years.

In the aftermath of an alien invasion that nearly destroyed Earth and all of its inhabitants, “Oblivion” follows Jack Harper (Cruise), a security repairman who is part of an operation to extract the planet’s remaining resources. However, as Harper reaches the end of his assignment, he begins to question his mission and himself.

“Oblivion” starts off on a completely riveting note, which sets up hope for a promising blockbuster. However, after a predictable plot twist after the first hour, the film loses momentum and heads into familiar territory. In fact, audiences who are active sci-fi watchers will recognize how the story mimics “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “Moon” (2009), among many. There is a big difference between paying homage and copying, and instead of running with its potential, we get another second-rate film from Joseph Kosinski (“TRON: Legacy,” 2011).

Kosinski is a filmmaker that has an extraordinary sense of creating spectacles that feel like breathing pieces of art, but the creativity all lies on the surface of the picture and not in the story. This is saddening because “Oblivion” could have been something exceptional.

As strange as it may seem, the film benefits in a big way from its leading performance. At 50, Cruise is still breaking necks and cashing checks. His natural charisma carries the film through its slower sections.

The cast also includes Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo and Olga Kurylenko as figures of mystery. Freeman, who is not featured as much as the film’s poster and trailer would have you believe, always brings such a commanding performance to his films. In another small but effective role, Leo (“The Fighter,” 2010) plays to some of the more interesting parts of the film as the operation’s commander, Sally. Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace,” 2008), who is capable of producing fine work with the right material, keeps things moving, but feels a tad out of place. However, Andrea Riseborough (“Never Let Me Go,” 2010) turns in the film’s best performance. She’s simply ethereal as the sad and confused Victoria, a communications officer to Cruise’s character.

Known for their hit “Midnight City,” the musical score by French shoegaze outfit M83 is astonishing. It was only a matter of time before someone recognized their knack for orchestrating music with cinematic sounds. Stylistically, the music shares similar aesthetics with the celebrated band’s previous album, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” (2011), and composer Hans Zimmer’s endeavors— most notably “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “Inception” (2010). Fans will find that their piercing soundtrack is a well fit for the visuals of “Oblivion.”

If audiences can go in with an open mind and push past the lack of innovation in terms of plot, the visual appeal, thumping soundtrack and exciting action sequences should be enough to keep filmgoers in their seat.

“Oblivion” opens nationwide today.

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