In 2010, first-time feature director Joseph Kosinski made the $300 million sequel, TRON: LEGACY. Boy, it was visually dazzling to look at but shame about the bloated plot and half-baked acting performances. However, moviegoers can rest easy as Joseph Kosinski has improved considerably in his sophomore follow-up, OBLIVION.
Set in the year of 2077, we learn that the Earth is pretty much an uninhabitable post-nuclear wasteland after the humankind has fought and eliminated an alien race called Scavengers. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a fighter pilot/repairman who is one of the last men assigned on the decayed Earth to fend off Scavengers and repair drones to make sure that the remaining Earth's resources are being collected for the survival of the human species. Jack has two weeks left to make sure everything is under control, before he and his beautiful partner/lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) can depart Earth for good.
However, things start to go wrong when Jack comes across a human survivor from a crash. That person happens to be the beautiful woman in his frequent dreams -- Julia (Olga Kurylenko). Midway, Jack also finds himself caught in the middle of the conspiracy theory involving the destruction of the Earth when he meets a man named Beech (Morgan Freeman).
The first half of the movie is especially intriguing. Despite its deliberate pace, the unhurried narrative strategy works well because Joseph Kosinski (who is actually based on his unpublished graphic novel) takes time to captivate the viewers with plenty of fascinating mysteries surrounding Jack's frequent dreams about Julia as well as the "mission" he's been assigned to all along.
Technically, the movie is top-notch. With the help of production designer Darren Gilford and Oscar-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda of LIFE OF PI (who utilizes the brand-new Sony F65 digital camera), everything in the movie is visually striking, yet seductive enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Action sequences are well-staged (particularly the aerial battle sequence involving the drones), while French band M83's electronic score is often captivating to the ears (which ironically sounds like Hans Zimmer's THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy-like musical vibe).
As for the acting, Tom Cruise is typically engaging as Jack Harper. Andrea Riseborough delivers some worthwhile icy-cool performance as Victoria, while Olga Kurylenko is effective enough as Julia. Meanwhile, Melissa Leo is appropriately creepy as the mysterious agent, Sally, who is mostly seen communicating Victoria through the screen monitor.
And of course, there's the neat twist midway in the movie that really caught me off guard. However, the second half of the movie begins to falter as it goes further. While some of the revelations from Jack's questions are interesting to watch for, most of these so-called brainteasing attempts are superficial that relies heavily on exposition-heavy dialogues, courtesy from Morgan Freeman. Speaking of Morgan Freeman, he is nothing more than a glorified cameo who, I must say, a huge waste in his underwritten role here. Then there is another twist during the climactic finale which isn’t really surprising if you are an ardent sci-fi movie fan.
Despite most of its flaws, OBLIVION remains a worthwhile cinematic experience.