At The Movies - Oblivion, a visual masterpiece
Director Joseph Kosinski is the chap who made Tron: Legacy, showing off quite the knack for fancy visuals. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda won that controversial Oscar this year for his work on Life of Pi - a film that might have benefited from a few touches more than pure cinematography, but looked incredible all the same.
In Oblivion, Kosinski and Miranda have collaborated to create a visual masterpiece, a film of spectacular, even breathtaking beauty. And it’s almost worth seeing, just for that.
But only almost. Because like Tron: Legacy (and Life of Pi, for that matter), there isn’t a story to match the pretty pictures.
It’s the future again, mankind having survived last week’s sudden lurch into the past, when Margaret Thatcher shared headline news with football hooligans, leaving some of us reaching for the comb to fix our mullets, in a state of deep confusion.
The year is 2077, and the Earth has been a post-apocalyptic wasteland for a good sixty years. Turned out that little guy in North Korea wasn’t all crazy talk after all. No, wait....that’s next week!
What really happened was an alien invasion. They just turned up out of nowhere and there was this big war, and we won, but sure the planet was banjaxed afterwards. So everyone had to move to a moon on Saturn. We called it Titan, basically because we have no imagination.
But we’re not entirely finished with Earth yet. In order to survive - or just to be true to our nature - we have to strip it of its resources. So we’re using these massive machines to suck energy from the oceans.
Thing is, there’s a few alien factions left about the place, so we have to protect our machinery with these flying drones. And to make a long story longer, we need a handyman down there to look after the maintenance. Jack Harper (Cruise) is that man.
Jack is an ex-Marine, a tough nut, just the man for the job - which basically involves whooshing around in a fancy flying machine and pretending to be Wall-E the cartoon robot.
Jack has an assistant named Victoria (Riseborough), who’s also his special lady friend, and they live together in a lovely pad in the sky. But Jack has strange recurring dreams of another woman. Then one day this other woman (Kurylenko) just turns up, crash-landing out of nowhere in an ancient NASA shuttle. This puts a bit a spanner in Jack’s reality. It kind of messes up his love life too.
Which all sounds jolly enough, and for a short while Oblivion shapes up to be the kind of dark sci-fi classic we’ve been waiting for - and that the likes of Prometheus have failed to deliver. But the early promise turns out to be empty, Konsinski apparently content just to dazzle, and hope to get by with a dull, predictable, by-the-numbers script, whose ideas have been recycled from old Arnold Scwarzenegger movies. As if to really assure us that we’re in Perfectly Ordinary Territory, Morgan Freeman is wheeled out to do the explaining.
And Morgan is grand. So is Cruise, doing his Cruisey thing, and his ladies are fine. Melissa Leo is as good as any of them, despite only appearing on a monitor screen, running the show from afar, doing the Hal.
It’s a real pleasure for the eyes, and the M.8.3. soundtrack is a treat for the ears. For the mind, it’s not so much fun.