With Oblivion, Tom Cruise returns to the sci-fi adventure genre, having take a sabbatical for several years following Minority Report and War of the Worlds. How does the latest effort stack up to those two? Is this PG-13 film appropriate for you or your teens? If you see it, what Gospel themes can you discuss afterwards? All of this after the jump!
OBLIVION REVIEW (GRADE: B)
It would be fallacious to call Oblivion “original.” This sophomore effort from writer/director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) borrows elements from numerous post-apocalyptic films and the action scenes, while thrilling, feel like slightly-tweaked versions of sequences you've seen dozens of times before. However, the story is thought-provoking and takes some unpredictable turns, the performances provide a solid emotional foundation, and the visuals are bold and imaginative.
Say what you will about Tom Cruise as a person (I try to go with the whole “judge not” thing), but he's a phenomenal actor. His dedication elevates any role he takes, and this one is no different. Cruise plays Jack Harper, a technician assigned to protect and repair the machines gathering what's left of Earth's natural resources after a nuclear holocaust. Suffice to say, he and his partner (Andrea Riseborough) are not the only ones on the planet, things are not what they seem, and the film takes great pleasure in playing its cards close to the chest, with surprises and twists that kept me guessing almost to the end.
Cruise's scenes with Riseborough, as well as those with a mysterious crash survivor (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace), are exactly what they need to be; both women offer rich, emotionally-diverse performances. Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises) is sadly underused, as is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mama), though both are excellent actors who bring more to the screen than what they were given in the screenplay.
Visually the film is astounding, with desolate post-apocalyptic landscapes, a truly phenomenal home/workstation in the sky (seriously, that set is awesome), and brilliantly-realized futuristic flight that'll have viewers' stomachs in knots. The musical score by French band M83 nicely balances futuristic tones and emotional beats. Sadly, some of the dialogue feels contrived and several ideas and moments feel lifted from Wall-E, The Matrix, The Empire Strikes Back, Independence Day…heck, even Top Gun. Still, Oblivion adds enough that is new, unpredictable, and moving to engage and satisfy its audience.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Oblivion is rated PG-13. It has one f-word and several scattered moderate profanities. Several people are incinerated by laser-type blasts. Two men fight, with punches, kicks, and choke-holds. A man is shot in the chest but is wearing body armor. A man is knocked unconscious by the butt of a rifle. A woman's back and a man's torso are briefly seen as they shower together (not sexual). A woman's bare backside is seen, obscured by shadow and water, as she skinny dips and pulls a man in with her. She takes his shirt off, they kiss, but the scene doesn't have them go any further.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: The Earth is, and was always meant to be, our home (Psalms 115:16). Enduring love and companionship comprise the sweetest joys of life (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11). False gods should not be followed (Deuteronomy 6:14). Feeding our minds with great books can give us the guidance we need (D&C 88:118).
Next week I shall unleash my 2013 summer movie preview, so you'll want to come on back!