The year is 2077, and Earth is a barren wasteland. 60 years ago, aliens invaded Earth after destroying our Moon, which threw the planet into environmental chaos. Humans fought back against the aliens with nuclear weapons, but it left the planet uninhabitable due to radiation and the effects of a very-exploded Moon.
Humanity built an ark of sorts, called the Tet, as a midway station between Earth and humanity’s new home on Titan — one of Saturn’s moons. The Tet send staff to Earth to monitor water harvesters, which desalinate water harvested from the oceans for that will be key to humanity’s survival. Or at least that’s what our protagonists are told. The truth is in fact much darker than that.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last men on Earth. He and his work partner and romantic liason, Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), work as a so-called “effective team” on Earth, maintaining an army of drones that fly around looking for Savs — or Savages.
Jack wants more out of life than just being a worker drone, and knows that his true home is Earth. His curiosity drives him to the real truth, which is presented to you, the viewer, as a series of twists and thrilling turns, all illustrated in the most beautiful end-of-the-world scene I have seen in a long time.
It all comes to a head when a ship containing the lifepod of Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko) crashes into Jack’s sector, that will serve to ultimately unlock the real story of the alien invasion.
The twists and turns in Oblivion are drip fed to you the way that you work in a video game to unlock new cutscenes, flashbacks and bits of dialogue to propel the main story line. That actually makes quite a bit of sense when you consider how Oblivion came to be. Director Joseph Kosinski actually wrote Oblivion as a comic book and a way to keep himself sane during the production of Tron: Legacy. Eventually he worked with screenwriters to adapt it to the screen, and enter Tom Cruise who helped get the film off the ground.
It’s unclear whether Kosinski wrote the graphic novel of Oblivion as a serialised story, but all signs point to yes, especially considering the episodic timing of each particular twist. You always seem to get to a crucial moment at 30-minute intervals in Oblivion. We’re not going to give them away here, but make sure you pay attention in the theatre: you’ll need to fit the whole puzzle together yourself later on with the information you have been given throughout the film. Visual clues, scraps of dialogue, longing looks and the odd audio clue will all play into the way you figure out the final plot of the film.
You might find yourself actually recounting the story to someone later on, and that’s when you realise the sheer simplicity and the intense beauty of Oblivion. It’s a story that has been done to death, but Kosinski works so well behind the scenes creating a visually spectacular world full of elements that look, sound and even feel amazing to the viewer, that you end up not minding that the characters are a little two-dimensional at times and the exposition is a little janky.
Many of the characters are left merely as archetypes rather than giving them explored and fleshed out back-stories, and that’s mostly due to time constraints. If we spent too long finding out what the leader of the resistance actually did and how he got there, we wouldn’t have been able to see some of the awesome 2077 post-apocalyptia we all came for.
More: Joseph Kosinski Talks The Making Of Oblivion:
Kosinski chose to shoot this film primarily for IMAX, so seeing it there is a must. We saw our screening in VMAX, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio rather than the taller aspect ratio offered by IMAX. It’s not unwatchable, but Kosinski has made the film with IMAX viewership in mind, and he’s really trying to convey a bigger world at the end of the day.
Regardless of which screen you see it on, however, it was still all shot natively in 4K, meaning that the details are so crisp and clear that pixel junkies will salivate from opening title to closing credits.
While it’s visually spectacular and a great sci-fi thriller, the best part of this film by a long way is the music. Kosinski had DJ superstars, Daft Punk, create the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy, and in a similar vein, M83 have been brought on board with the same composer from Legacy to produce the sound of Oblivion. It’s a rhythmic score that twists and turns just as the plot does, and it’s perfect as the audio backdrop for this hauntingly beautiful landscape.
Long story short: if you watched yesterday’s Elysium trailer and need something to do with that nerd boner that won’t go down, see Oblivion. It’s a geeky, sci-fi romp that relies on visual beauty and aural intelligence to be told, rather than just opening a book and reading you off a linear tale.
It’s by no means an instant classic, but it’s one of the better sci-fi thrillers — and arguably the most original — we’ve had in a long time.
Oblivion opens in cinemas around the country from today.