Oblivion (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

Oblivion (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

In pursuit or being pursued?

In choppy, frizzed, black and white video, Sally, a boisterous leader with a southern drawl asks, “Are you still an effective team?” Agreeably, the woman on the other end of the line, Victoria, responds with a nod and Sally labors forward with technical orders. But I too, can respond to this inquiry in agreement. Director Joseph Kosinski (“TRON: Legacy”), with Oblivion, has put together a clamorous, stimulating science fiction piece that keeps the viewer on seat edge for most of its 126 minute running time.

From the opening credits on, the production values of Oblivion leap out at you like a scouring deer in the headlights. Fortunately, like with the deer, disaster is averted and the film becomes the hippest blockbuster of the year thus far, maybe even since we saw Ridley Scott bring his A-game in “Prometheus.” It also allows one to reclaim the admiration for Tom Cruise earned through roles in “Top Gun,” “Rain Man” and “Eyes Wide Shut.”

2077: The contingent system is operating smoothly, and the Earth, ravaged by invasion and natural disaster, continues to be patrolled by Jack Harper (Cruise). He’s “Tech 49” whose duty is to patrol the last habitable grids of earth which have been left behind by a human race fleeing to a space station and Saturn’s largest moon. As his days wind down, and he completes maintenance on drones (which are the human race’s last “garrisons” and only protection against left-over alien invaders called “Scavs”) he heads home, thousands of feet in the air, where his partner and lover, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, “Welcome to the Punch”) awaits his arrival.

Repeatedly, this cycle becomes Jack’s familiar routine; that is until a capsule comes crash-landing onto Earth, apparently drawn in from a Scav homing beacon. Investigating the scene, Jack finds that the ship contains human survivors. But as a drone approaches, he is befuddled as it soullessly executes the sleeping survivors. He manages to save one female in “delta sleep,” and coincidentally, she’s the same one Jack has seen over and over again in a distant, grey memory. He cannot pinpoint this flashback though, because six years earlier, the memories of Victoria and Jack had been wiped out, for security purposes. As he looks aghast at the strapping young woman, Julia (Olga Kurylenko, “Seven Psychopaths”), their time to become acquainted is cut short when the Scavs capture both her and Jack.

Tied up and bound to the middle of an underground facility, Jack soon finds out that what he’s come to know is not all that facile and legitimate. An underfoot leader, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman, “Olympus has Fallen”) pleads for Jack to venture towards the forbidden “radiation zone” to discover the truth. Is Jack’s disenchanted life more fallacy than fact? Is this Julia character really someone from his distant past? What will become of the pillaged planet?

Many of those answers are a bit abstract and actually challenging to answer, becoming a substantial distraction for the film’s overall intentions. However, both the CGI and Tom Cruise carry the weight of Oblivion on their backs, with both being quite effective. And although you’re left second-guessing yourself time and again as events unfold, it’s hard to condemn this film — it’s so damn visually appealing that it is very easy to overlook the farcical plot and its obvious lapses.

Oblivion (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

Searching for “scavs.”

In a loud, flashy display cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, and editor, Richard Francis-Bruce, really transport viewers to 2077, where they gauge the deforested, barren landscape and fly along with Cruise in his thruster-propelled ship. Even the moon cast in the distance, ravaged by alien destruction, is realistic looking, enthralling moviegoers and earning Miranda and Francis-Bruce a meritorious pat on the back, well done.

And while many Sci-Fi films tend to bring down your guard during belief suspension (this film being no different), the themes of Oblivion can be salvaged — even from depths of the soil-ridden remnants of New York City skyscrapers. The power of certain scientific capabilities and the millenniums-long idea of a god-complex is deliberated here. Do our seemingly-diminutive actions have serious repercussions for the Earth? Does playing the almighty gradually destruct an entire species? Kosinski’s screenplay at least tries to fly at drone-speed towards these answers.

So the only question remaining is: Do you hold high narrative standards for your films? Or are you fine with being a little confused as a story unfolds and admire a couple hours of visually-appealing, cutting-edge effects? If it’s the latter, grab your keys and go to the theater right now. Oblivion is, as Cruise says intermittently throughout the film, “Another day in Paradise.”

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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The Critical Movie Critics

Dan is an author, film critic and media professional. He is a former staff writer for the N.Y. Daily News, where he served as a film/TV reviewer with a "Top Critic" designation on Rotten Tomatoes. His debut historical fiction novel, "Synod," was published by an independent press in Jan. 2018, receiving praise among indie book reviewers. His research interests include English, military and political history.

'Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)' have 18 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 12:53 pm frommel

    All great right up until the end.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 1:01 pm Silix

    I thought it was a decent sci-fi flick, at most. Felt like the boys behind it were relying too heavily on the “surprise” ending to validate it.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 1:10 pm Bogen

    I’ve always though Cruise was a more than capable actor but his effort in Oblivion isn’t anything special nor is it enough for me to put aside his recent bizarre Scientological behaviors.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 1:38 pm Vincent Frost

    For lack of a better adjective, I found it sterile. Unengaging. There is little meat on the bone to go along with the slick visuals. And it doesn’t help that Cruise is on cruise control, Freeman is a nonfactor and Kurylenko is Kurylenko.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      April 20, 2013 @ 7:10 pm Poux

      Neutered would be the word I use. The highs never get high enough

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 1:47 pm Chris

    Warning to action fans: don’t expect big laser battle every 5 minutes. In fact, don’t expect any.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 2:14 pm Dan Gunderman

    Also be on the look out for subtly strategic placements…Horatius, Charles Dickens…

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 2:29 pm _UrbanSprawl_

    Minority Report remains TC’s sci-fi triumph.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 3:08 pm General Disdain

    Good review, Dan. You liked the movie more than I did – I was thinking it maybe earned a 3/5. Tom Cruise played the same generic character he’s been playing for the past ten years and for me the final payoff was a big, fat disappointment.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 4:46 pm AstroCamper


    • The Critical Movie Critics

      April 20, 2013 @ 8:39 pm Gothica


  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 5:14 pm constitutionist

    Am I looking too deeply into this or are the themes in this analogous to the current military use of drones?

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2013 @ 7:54 pm Nancy

    Why is it aliens always have a ridiculously easy weakness to exploit? Just once I’d like to see some ingenuity in the way an overthrow is handled.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      April 20, 2013 @ 11:27 pm footlong

      The aliens in Signs had a ridiculously easy weakness to exploit. The aliens in this don’t exactly suffer from a weakness, bad judgement perhaps but that comes with delusions of infallibility …

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 21, 2013 @ 11:30 am Preston

    Not that I’m a big supporter of it but Oblivion is one movie that may have popped further in the 3rd dimension.

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 23, 2013 @ 3:34 am Dan Gunderman

    With the disappointing payoff, I agree, its even hard to grasp the plot for a bit, but I just think I’ve seen a lot worse (& the really neat cinematography adds a star)

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 23, 2013 @ 3:35 am Dan Gunderman

    The vulnerable aliens are a bit cliche, but that’s a whole other issue with Hollywood in itself ya know…

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 29, 2013 @ 11:27 am jack riley

    People—please stop sugarcoating it TC is a terrible actor who is one dimentional and only keeps working because he produces his own films–

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