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Oblivion (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 125 minutes.

OK for children.

This is the type of 21st century major studio film I have come to loathe. It’s set in 2077 after Earth has been devastated by a cataclysmic war. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough are apparently the only human beings monitoring Earth as water is being sucked from the surface for a migration to one of the moons of Saturn for the survivors of the war. Tom and Andrea report to a computerized person orbiting the dead and dying earth, played by Melissa Leo. There are some bad creatures still on the planet who occasionally attack Tom, and Tom and Andrea are ordered to keep away from them, as well as to stay out of a zone labeled prohibited because it is highly radioactive.

Although the production notes claim this to be “an original and groundbreaking cinematic event,” they also state that it is based on the “graphic novel created by Joseph Kosinski” (who is the director of the film). However, it seems to me to be clearly based on a radio show, that was originally broadcast on November 26, 1950 entitled Universe, written by Robert Henlein that told almost the same story. I heard Greg Bell’s 1951 rebroadcast of the show on XM radio’s Classic Radio channel approximately a month ago. I haven’t seen Kosinski’s graphic novel (a supercilious term for a long comic book), but this story is so shockingly similar to Henlein’s story that it strains credulity to believe that the creators of this film were not greatly influenced or inspired by Henlein’s story.

There are five writing credits, so I won’t bother to mention them here, especially since I suspect that the story was purloined from the aforementioned radio show. Even so, the script is well-written and the story captivating. Although it runs for over two hours, Kosinski keeps the pace moving. The story is told well as at the beginning the tension starts and doesn’t let up until the final scenes.

Surprising for special effects–driven movies like this, the cast is top-flight, including Morgan Freeman, Leo, and Olga Kurylenko, who seems to be making an appearance in almost every movie I see recently.

Like many modern movies, this is clearly aimed at the videogame crowd, because the special effects are straight out of that genre. Normally these kinds of things are a big bore. But here they are essential to the plot and are of high quality so do not overwhelm the movie.

The film is visually stunning, shot with a new Sony F65 digital camera, it has clarity four times a High Def image. There are a lot of stunts in the film and it is claimed the Cruise does them all himself. I’m generally dubious of  claims (and it’s almost always that stars claim to perform their own stunts) that a huge star would risk himself on dangerous stunts and that production companies and insurance companies would allow a star upon which the success of the film depends to take such risks, but that’s what they claim. If he did do them, they are impressive.

I came out of this film pleasantly surprised. The less you know about the plot, the more you will enjoy the film. But shame on them for not giving Henlein any credit.

April 10, 2013