Oblivion – Film Review

Oblivion

Joseph Kosinski can’t catch a break. The marketing for his first film, Tron Legacy promised us insane pants-wetting levels of excitement and many were disappointed with the slow, self-indulgent film we were given (for the record I still wet my pants watching it). Now, with Oblivion there’s a bit of reversal; we’ve been given marketing that seems to offer – in Mild Concern editor Tim’s delicate words – “one of the blandest looking Sci-Fis of recent years.” The brute even finds the time to insult Morgan Freeman. Oblivion does look shit, but the film itself – 2013’s lead-in original sci-fi in a year full of the things – is one of the most un-shit things that will be released this year.

In 2017 an alien attack obliterates Earth and just about all of human civilization. Whilst the Earth’s population migrates to Saturn’s moon, Titan, a handful of two-person teams remain on Earth to maintain and protect machinery that is extracting the planet’s remaining resources to build a new world for humankind elsewhere. Team 49 consists of protocol-abiding Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and the too-inquisitive Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) whose “effective team” status is compromised after Jack locates a crashed spaceship with a disoriented stranger inside. Proceed, mind-f***ing hijinks.

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One of the recurring insults the film has been landed with is that its plot and visual style is “A bit of this meets that, meets this other thing with a touch of oh, that one as well,” which is derivative and unfair. The familiarity experienced in Oblivion is Kosinski’s conscious choice to return to science fiction cinema’s early roots, where films were packed with simple primary shapes, ambiguously unnerving commanders with thick accents, scary machines that go “pew pew” and “braawgghh”, and lots and lots of white. Oblivion is homage-laden gold but it still has its own distinct voice which, with its many original merits owns its audience entirely.

The film’s hyperventilating pace is both its strongest and weakest talent. Combining the classic slow-burning plot and character development style of old science fiction with exhilarating action that contains no holds barred obliteration on a level that I can’t recall seeing in a 12A since War of the Worlds that is expected  of today’s sci-fi Oblivion tries to have its cake and eat it too. For the most part Kosinski succeeds; the film impressively handles the slow-burn and boasts exhausting action but the transition between the two is recurrently turbulent.

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Perhaps Oblivion’s best quality is its ability to keep you constantly engaged narratively. Where most Blockbusters these days battle to see who can reveal the most about their film in their trailer, Oblivion doesn’t sacrifice its narrative integrity – albeit at the risk of making itself look like one of the blandest sci-fis of recent years – so when we experience the story in full for the first time in the cinema everything about it feels more epic and earned.

Sound and visuals also play a huge part in viscerally complementing the narrative as Joseph Trapanese and M83’s score is as gorgeous as the Icelandic, Hawaiian and mid-American landscapes that keep us in awe during the film’s immersive action and drama. If you don’t buy a copy of the soundtrack and pretend you’re alone on a grassy mountain as you listen to it immediately after the film there is something severely wrong with you.

Despite some bad publicity and unfair reviews floating around, Oblivion is a crackingly nostalgic-yet-new launching pad for the rest of 2013’s upcoming original science fiction cinema. Shame Tom Cruise does minimal running, though.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol – Review

We recently attended the UK premiere of the upcoming spy-fi action extravaganza, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and we’ll be frank: it is awesome. Okay, we tell a lie, the premiere that Tom Cruise et al attended was at another cinema the same evening, but that part about the film being awesome? Deadly accurate.

Ghost Protocol sees Ethan Hunt (Cruise) in a dark place. He is no longer with his beloved wife, he is locked up in a brutal Russian prison and the IMF (Impossible Missions Force – duh) has just been framed for exploding the Moscow Kremlin, driving military tensions higher than those during the Cold War. In order to clear the IMF’s name as a terrorist group and the United States as a reckless child with nuclear warheads, Ethan and his co-disavowees must uncover and foil a globally devastating plot.

The Mission: Impossible series of films are a consistent bunch in that they all (well, maybe not M:I 2) feature relevant, complex plots with a heavy dose of sexy and stunning action – which permits the spectator to gloss over and forget their own mundane lives; allowing them to believe in an utterly dangerous and OTT world of spy action.

Director, Brad Bird (The Simpsons, The Incredibles) has gone out of his way to create the meticulous Ghost Protocol, applying his animated past’s pedantic creativity to constantly keep us thoroughly engaged. Of course, he also had help from the methodical writings of André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum: veteran scribes on producer JJ Abrams’ spy-fi show, Alias.

For once, and similar to the original television series, Ghost Protocol does its best to create a tight-knit group of characters rather than focusing entirely on Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, adding a certain level of intimacy that was lacking in the previous films. Albeit man-boobed, Cruise is again on top form, going so far as realizing his own stunts dangling a mile above earth on the Burj Khalifa; Jeremy Renner captures all with his stubborn and secretive Brandt; and Simon Pegg only cements his US mainstream success as nerd Benji, whose British humour creates the majority of the film’s most awesome moments. Aside from the sexiness of Pegg, there is plenty of female beauty to fall back on to as well with the powerfully dominant Paula Patton and assassin seductress Lea Seydoux.

To truly capture the size of Ghost Protocol, see it on the biggest screen you can find as Brad Bird has defied all with his first live action blockbuster. Even when you question the film – like, ‘how does Ethan survive four car crashes when I wimp out over a paper cut?’; the disavowing of Ethan’s marriage is sure to upset many (although, Bird and co work around that excellently *taps nose*); and some of the CGI is just staggeringly bad – you will enjoy the film far too much to even think about those kinds of hair-splitting idiosyncrasies. Plus, Tom Cruise once again fills his obligatory running quota so it can’t be all that bad, right? Right.

*hums Mission: Impossible theme whilst purchasing a ticket to see the film again*