Oblivion review

Banana Rating: 3 out of 5

They come round occa­sion­ally, once every blue moon, once every Shef­field flood, a week­end in which a new Nic­olas Cage movie isn’t released. I’m talk­ing about a Tom Cruise film that I actu­ally like. And I like Obli­vion.

The last film star­ring The Cruiser that I genu­inely enjoyed was Col­lat­eral. Mainly because he was play­ing a bad guy. That type of role is a bet­ter fit for his intense, nar­ciss­istic per­sona. All that crazy, jump­ing on sofas oddness, that feel­ing that some­where, deep down, there’s an unhinged lun­atic that secretly hates every­one that isn’t Tom Cruise, works really well when he’s play­ing a bad guy.

So Obli­vion is a pleas­ant sur­prise. Even more so, con­sid­er­ing Joseph Kos­in­skidir­ec­ted it. He’s the guy who crapped the totally aver­age TRON: Leg­acy across cinema screens.

War with aliens

Obli­vion shares some of that film’s clean aes­thetic. Cruise plays Jack Harper (hon­estly, any­one else get­ting bored with Hollywood’s fond­ness for call­ing lead char­ac­ters Jack?), one half of a main­ten­ance crew that resides in an impossibly tall, gleam­ing white tower in the clouds. There’s hardly a thing out-of-place, lots of clean archi­tec­tural lines, neut­ral col­ours, crisp linen, that sort of thing.

You never see him or Andrea Rise­bor­ough rub­bing his space­ship down with a sponge and a bucket of soapy water, but before take off at the start of a new day, it always looks spot­less. In the future, maybe space­ships are self cleansing.

That clean­ness, stark and white, up there in the clouds, serves as a nice con­trast to the world below: decim­ated by a war with ali­ens, but one which human­ity has actu­ally won. Trouble is, we had to use nukes to do it. Pesky nukes. Always turn­ing Earth into a waste­land. On the plus side, they also turn sci-fi stor­ies into money-making block­busters, and keep pop­corn man­u­fac­tur­ers in business.

With the earth des­troyed, Cruise and Rise­bor­ough dili­gently see to it that the rest of the world’s resources are siphoned off, to provide energy to the rest of human­ity who are on one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. Nat­ur­ally, as this is a sci­ence fic­tion movie, noth­ing is that straightforward.

Three act structure

What I liked most about Obli­vion is that the story has a notice­able three act struc­ture. I find it amaz­ing really, that that’s a selling point, but with a lot of event movies mind­lessly chas­ing a MacGuffin for two hours, it seems oddly refreshing.

Is it a Hol­ly­wood con­spir­acy? Have they been feed­ing us poorly struc­tured stor­ies in mega budget movies for the last 10 years, so that when they throw some­thing our way that has a begin­ning, a middle and an end (and not some­thing that is all begin­ning, or all middle, or all end), we think we’re see­ing some­thing new and original?

Maybe that’s the plan, because Obli­vion is hardly ori­ginal. It’s easy to see where it’s bor­rowed some of its ideas from. And plot incon­sist­en­cies do niggle, lead­ing to ques­tions that would bring the film to a grind­ing halt, if you thought about them too much.

But mostly, Cruise sells it well, from the routine work of his main­ten­ance job through to the inev­it­able action hero­ics. Sadly, Mor­gan Free­man is wasted in a role that his him onscreen for not much more than fif­teen minutes of the movie. How­ever, dur­ing that time, he does man­age to look mega cool with noth­ing more than the simple act of light­ing a cigar.

The real standout is Andrea Rise­bor­ough. She might not have the lead role that Olga Kur­ylenko bagged, but hers is a more inter­est­ing char­ac­ter arc. She wrings a lot out of it, con­sid­er­ing she barely moves from the one location.

So, some cool action, The Cruiser at his least annoy­ing, a good sense of pace, beau­ti­ful scenes of destruc­tion (includ­ing the moon which has been cracked in two), and fly­ing droids that make weird and funny noises, it’s a Tom Cruise film that I actu­ally like! Amazing!

Just how intense is Tom Cruise in Oblivion?

But I guess the big ques­tion is, “Just how intense is Tom Cruise in Obli­vion?” His level of intens­ity is some­thing I’ve decided to start meas­ur­ing with this, and every sub­sequent Tom Cruise movie that I see.

As we all know, whether he’s play­ing a samurai, a sports agent, a Viet­nam vet­eran or a hot­shot lawyer/racing driver/jet fighter pilot, Tom Cruise at some point dur­ing the movie will become… INTENSE. Some­times when you least expect it. Some­times it’s only for the briefest moment, to show the bad guy who’s boss. Some­times, you can see him build­ing up to it. The smile fades. Watch out! Tom is gonna get… INTENSE!

For Obli­vion, see below for just how INTENSE Tom is.

65%. That’s pretty INTENSE. Maybe not so much as we’re used to. I think Cruise, early in the film at least, seems quite human, dis­play­ing a wry humour that is at odds with his nor­mal capa­city to be… INTENSE. I cal­cu­lated Tom’s INTENSENESS rat­ing using guess­work, two cups of cof­fee, and a graph­ics pro­gram. I hope you find the inform­a­tion useful.