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‘Oblivion’ Review : Eye-poppingly, ear-wettingly gorgeous

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

”Oblivion” is what happens when Richard Mathieson walks into a bar, picks up Philip K.Dick, and later uses the stickers from his synthesizer’s keyboard as lubricant.

Like a fairly standard Vegas buffet located on the glitziest part of the strip, ”TRON Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski’s sophomore effort is, not unexpectedly (considering his dazzling debut), an orgasm for the senses, clad with amazing sound and unforgettable visuals, but it’s storyline seems to be leftover rations (from other films) pushed together on a clean plate.

If you’re going to the film, headlined by effortless ticket seller Tom Cruise, expecting to see something that looks and sounds a coupla million bucks you won’t be disappointed.

With its jaw-dropping visual depic of skylines – oh, and soaring cliff tops, space shuttles, drone and space pod dogfights, and, erm, sex in an above (above.. above…) ground pool – along with an amazing synthesizer-heavy score (by M83), ”Oblivion”’s undoubtedly going to be remembered as one of the most gorgeous looking films of the year. Kosinski, who hails from the world of crafty commercial making, milks the depth, dimension and space from every angle of his locale, and pushes his visual effects crew to the max, resulting in one of the most impressive looking science-fiction movies in years. The world of ”Oblivion” is, quite simply, eye poppingly, ear-wettingly gorgeous.

And this is where the ‘style over substance’ paragraph begins, I’m afraid. The script, by Kosinski and Karl Gajdusek (the guy who penned the atrocious Nicolas Cage/Nicole Kidman movie ”Trespass”), wasn’t as looked-after as the bulky cameras dragged to the top of Icelandic cliffs seemingly were. While engaging, and while there are some genuine surprises, most of the story plays a bit like a “greatest hits from science-fiction classics” album – there’s a bit of ”Total Recall” in there, some ”Blade Runner”, a whole lotta ”I Am Legend”, cheeky thieving’s from the recent gem ”Moon”, and even a few bits and bobs that seem borrowed from Tom Cruise’s own ”Minority Report”. Having spent so much on making this world look so divine, one would’ve hoped for something a little more mind-blowing and original, in terms of story concept.

We’re told aliens invaded Earth 60 years ago. We’re told it’s no longer a habitable place, thanks to the destruction they caused; we’ve all left, the scavs (the alien) stayed. Jack Harper (Cruise) is one of only two humans left below. While the rest of the populace wait patiently on a nearby planet, Jack – and live-in partner Andrea Riseborough – are assigned by the government, ‘clean up duties’. In his futuristic flying contraption, Jack patrols the skies and, when needed, heads below to the ruins of Earth to repair drones or look into strange happenings. While on a routine patrol below, Jack rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a spacecraft shot down. The survivor’s arrival has Jack questioning everything he knows (for a start, he knows this woman from his ‘dreams’) and whatever he’s been told by the all-eyes government he’s employed by.

Tom Cruise-loathers will be glad to hear he’s not just tolerable, he’s actually quite good in this. Aside from his trademark succession of long-lingering close-ups, Cruise not only looks the part (and, mind you, about twenty years younger; how does this man not age!?) but immerses himself in the role of our confused hero. He’s also much more at home here – and the film’s better, too – than he was playing the title character in his last film, ”Jack Reacher”.
It could be that Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko come across a little blah in the film (playing love interest and loyal aide, respectively), and that’s why Cruise’s performance here stands out, but the superstar of cinema does seem to have found an interesting, cool character to play here – and he’s gotten right into it. This is the kind of vehicle that reminds audiences there are only a few matinee idols still out there, and he’s one of them.

Had the scripters not polluted the world of ”Oblivion” with recycled cinematic carbon gas, the air might’ve blown us a fresher, more unique picture. As it stands, it’s still a very entertaining and really striking picture – considerably so – but because a lot of its appeal does rely on the huge cinematic visuals, it’s a film that’s life will likely live and die with its theatrical run.

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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

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