The Other Side Of 9: Oblivion

2013/ USA

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough

Words: N. Platts

We’ve all been there. It’s three in the morning, you’ve just made yourself a soothing cup of good old English tea and you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling. Sleep evades you and your alarm is going off in just four hours. What do you do? Now, maybe most of you will clamp your eyes closed and will yourself to at least get a few hours kip so you can be at least partly human the next day? Maybe you’ll make that classic cup of tea a little more Irish and attempt to tackle the situation that way? No? Okay…then maybe, like me, you trawl through Netflix and look for something to watch? Got it? Yes? Good. Bingo. We’re on the same page.

Now, hunting out a good film on Netflix (or the equivalent) is often a tenuous affair full of disappointment with the phrase “Seen it” seemingly drifting from between your lips over and over again. However from time to time you find that rarest of gems. A film you’ve not seen, a film that seems bearable and a film that has been directed by the same bloke that directed for us the return of the Tron universe in Tron: Legacy; a highly underrated film in this man’s humble opinion. So, I settled down, sipped my steaming cup of tea, and braced myself for Oblivion.

With a cast headed by miniature action hero Tom Cruise and Newcastle lass Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion depicts humanity within a situation so far up shit creek that you’d need a whole load of Mr Muscle to even see the edge, as Jack Harper (Cruise) and Victoria (Riseborough) are tasked with monitoring the last remnants of planet Earth prior to a worldwide evacuation; whilst also supervising a fleet of drones in their hunting down of the supposedly evil ‘Scavs’, a bumbling race of laser shooting humanoids that are hiding out on the surface. How bloody dare they!

Jack’s memory has been wiped clear by those above him in order to protect some of Earth’s secrets from falling into the hands of other hostile forces. However, this cleansing of memories seemingly missed one rather important moment in particular, namely a romantic encounter with an absolute corker in pre-war New-York (played by Olga Kurylenko), who eventually shows up in this debauched wasteland and tells poor old confused Jack; that not everything here is as it seems and that the Earthen authorities are telling him big old porkies!

Now, I won’t spoil the film for you by detailing all of the plot to you – not because it’d be spoilers – but because it could barely be called a plot at all. Oblivion discharges information at you at an alarming rate, and given the way in which director Joseph Kosinski dealt with the high-octane story of Tron: Legacy, this is a little bit of a disappointment. Before I even had time to take my first sip of tea, I wasn’t really sure who was who, where we were or what the hell was going on. You very quickly begin to feel with this film as if you are on a treadmill with the speed being gradually turned up, you can only stay on board for so long…and as soon as Morgan Freeman shows up in some bad guy turned good guy scenario, you have even less of a chance of tagging along with an already convoluted storyline.

That being said, the art direction and mise-en-scene of this picture are both genuinely outstanding. The sparse CGI is done at a really high level, the setting – most of which was filmed on location in Iceland (the country not your mother’s favourite frozen food store…) – gives the film a really pleasing and desolate aesthetic, and the cold clinical nature of Jack and Victoria’s surroundings; set the overall tone of a lonesome and thankless life in a way that harks toward a more realistic Mad Max.

Overall however, the film isn’t one that grasps me and pulls me into its arms and shouts “Love me!” The world feels genuine, with characters that exude texture and a sombre authenticity to them, especially that of Andrea Riseborough, who gives a stand out performance of pragmatism despite her character of Victoria being rather onerous and marginalised as the film reaches its climax. However, with a plot that twists and turns so rapidly with abject confusion, Kosinski and co. have created a film that I found at least; a little difficult to enjoy. In some aspects, Oblivion hits highs that many a filmgoer would pray to see, and in others it misses the point entirely, leaving you feeling just as empty and confused as poor Jack Harper with no memories nor personality to speak of.