Conceptual familiarity often plagues works of pure science fiction, as no wholly unique idea could conceivably exist without borrowing – to some extent – from an identifiable source. This opinion of mine is almost solely why Oblivion succeeds on every level, pairing the obviously derivative with the agreeably entertaining to mold itself into an above-average film. Though unsurprisingly not perfect by any stretch of the word, director and fledgling writer Kosinski’s gamble with this type of material is certainly of the winning variety as poise frequently trumps Oblivion‘s lesser elements.
Confidently harboring the latest incarnation of the not-so-fabled dystopian future motif, one Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a ruined Earth’s last remaining drone repairman – ones that function as beefed-up security for massive energy collectors meant to power a far-off human colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Wrapping up he and his communications officer’s (Andrea Riseborough) last tour of duty, the duo naturally anticipate their departure, that is until a multifaceted conspiracy begins to unravel pertaining to the truth behind Earth’s fate and these individuals’ very existence. As to be expected, questions are asked, yet not all are answered as thoroughly as one would hope.
Kosinski’s world-building ability is adequate to say the least, the film painting an evocative portrait of a ravaged planet teeming with a vivid, exceedingly unique futuristic aesthetic that rarely ceases to impress. Oblivion‘s recognizable visual prowess aside, it embraces its aforementioned familiarity with confidence, slowly building from an unremarkable opening up to and through one revelation after another. While some of its influences are more recognizable than others (both narratively and thematically), a competent balance of arresting action set pieces and unexpected emotional depth exists to push a potential barrage of harsh criticisms from our minds, the film remaining steadfast in building up to a stellar, moreover gratifying and skillfully executed conclusion.
With Oblivion being so pridefully story driven, it’s difficult to discuss at length without touching upon narrative spoilers. This in mind, such a statement should speak volumes about how assuredly the film surpasses expectations, doing so even despite a frequent employment of tried-and-true dystopian sci-fi tropes. Bolstered further by a typically praiseworthy Tom Cruise, Kosinski’s sophomore effort proves its worth as genre thrills pair wonderfully with intelligence, emotional resonance and a technically flawless aural and visual quality. A proverbial pleasant surprise if there ever was one in my book.