Sunday, February 23, 2014

Morgan Freeman Week: Oblivion

Morgan Freeman Week continues...

Directed by Joseph Kosinski.
2013. Rated PG-13, 125 minutes.
Andrea Riseborough
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

That alien invasion you've been waiting on has finally happened. It's 2077, well after the big showdown and I'm happy to inform you that we won. Sort of. In the process of beating the invaders, we pretty much ruined Earth by nuking everything. The entire planet is a desolate wasteland. The few human survivors have all relocated to Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons. Well, everyone but Tech 49 Jack Harper (Cruise) and Victoria Olsen (Riseborough). As needed, he flies around and repairs the drones that are protecting power stations from Scavengers. The power stations basically harvest the water for energy to be used on Titan. Scavengers are the few remaining survivors of the invading army. Victoria works the control tower from their apartment in the sky. At night, they turn the place into a love shack. Anyhoo, Jack has the sneaking suspicion that something isn't quite right. This is mostly due to the fact that even though his memory has been completely wiped, as has been done to all humans, he has recurring dreams of meeting a woman at the Empire State Building back before the war. That's not even mentioning the fact that the Scavengers, or Scavs as our hero calls them, are getting bolder by the day.

What works most is the look of the film. It presents us with stark visuals of what the world could be like after nuclear annihilation. You really get the sense that the planet has been decimated. This helps us get the same sense of isolation as our hero. The only contact they have with anyone else is with Sally (Leo), the lady who works mission control from the space station Tet, that functions as headquarters for their little operation. That feeling is compounded by the fact that Jack is the only one who goes out. This means he is alone most of the day except for Victoria's voice in his headphones. It is a fairly lonely existence.

The concepts put forth by Oblivion are also intriguing. It uses these concepts to build mystery and suspense. This is especially true of the Scavs. For awhile, we are strung along trying to figure out exactly what they are trying to accomplish. Jack struggles with this also. We watch him attempting to piece things together in his head, but see that it's not quite coming together. Meanwhile, the mysterious creatures that roam the Earth seem to be closing in on him. It many ways, the movie functions like an updated version of Richard Matheson's iconic novel I Am Legend with Tom Cruise giving us his version of Robert Neville.

Okay, let's be honest. Tom Cruise is really giving us his version of Tom Cruise, pretty much like he always does. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that you know what you're going to get before the movie even starts. Likewise Morgan Freeman gives us Morgan Freeman. The major difference is that he's a bit more suave than normal as he's seen often sitting cross-legged while puffing on a cigar. This is a bit strange given the setting and circumstances, but it works. In case you're confused, no Cruise and Riseborough are not the only people in the movie. However, I won't tell you who Freeman plays since I don't want to spoil things for any of you that haven't seen it.

Most of this film's problems lie within the execution of things. This is particularly true for the second half of the movie where things are to be resolved. We start to notice the threadbare script as it cuts corners. Things aren't fleshed out quite enough to work. And in one case, the film goes all out on a bait-and-switch that feels like a cheat, at best. At worst, it creates a hole in the plot bigger than the one Jack gets trapped in at one point. This leaves us with a movie that was going along nicely and then falls apart at the end.

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