Monday, April 22, 2013

Oblivion (2013)

Title: Oblivion (2013)

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough


Joseph Kosinski proved himself to be a very stylish director with great command over the look and design of a film with TRON: Legacy (2010) a film that at first I wasn’t a big fan of, but has sense grown on me. There’s just no denying its visual splendor and the awesomeness of the designs involved in that picture. The look of the sets, the vehicles…the wardrobe, there’s no denying it all looks very slick, very avant garde. So of course, I was extremely curious for his sophomore project, the sci-fi film Oblivion, a film that first started out as a graphic novel written by Kosinski that never got printed. Still, he used that unprinted graphic novel as a sales pitch to studios. Disney didn't bite (they wanted the film to be PG) but Universal did. So as you  can see, we’re talking about an extremely talented individual here. This Kosinski guy isn’t just any run of the mill director, he not only writes graphic novels, and directs films, he’s also got a background in 3-D architectural design, which probably explains why the sets on his films look so freaking awesome and futuristic. It’s pretty obvious that Kosinski siphons all that knowledge into the look of his films. What worries some people is that his films might be stronger on the visual department then on the story or depth department, is this true?

Well, if TRON: Legacy and Oblivion are any indications, Kosinski’s films are solid on both counts, visual and thematic. TRON: Legacy was a film that criticized oppressive governments that want to turn everyone into a robot in their attempts at creating a “perfect society”. This is no light subject matter; in fact, films of this nature have a strong subversive tone to them. I included TRON: Legacy in an article I wrote about SubversiveCinema a while back. Actually TRON even went as far as commenting on how the system controls the media, the entertainment of the people in order to send out a certain message or point of view. Oblivion is the same type of subversive film, it hits on the system and the way things are set in our way of life. So if you ask me, Kosinski is setting a patter as a subversive filmmaker, which is something I love. You gotta have guts to stand up to the system and tell it like it is in this world. Too often people prefer to live life ignoring the realities of the world we live in and “not asking too many questions”. So this isn’t just an empty special effects heavy film that looks pretty. Nope, this is the kind of film that says hell yeah ask questions! In fact, ask as many as you have to and get to the truth. Look at the other side of the coin, not just the side “they” show you.   

First up we meet Jack and Victoria, a couple which typifies the American marriage. Victoria for all intents and purposes is the house wife who stays at home while the man, played by Tom Cruise, goes out to get the job done. Their purpose is to be “an effective team” in service to the system so they can retire and go on to live in paradise, enjoy the good life. This couple has all the comforts of modern technology, but no connection with nature or the planet they live in. In this way Kosinski comments on how technology has distanced us from the finer, simpler pleasures that our world offers us like sitting on a field of grass, basking in the sun, listening to good music, reading a good book. Jack is a character who longs for these things in a world that denies them to him. The system wants to keep him busy, producing, being “effective”, while truthfully, Jack longs for baseball games and a homey, warm cabin by the lake. He wants to live life next to his loved one. In this sense, Oblivion really connected with me and my personal view of life. I, like Jack, and many of you out there I’m sure, long for a life with less buildings, less cars, less machines and more contact with nature, more freedom to enjoy the wonders this world holds for us. But getting the “job done” and surviving in this world always gets in the way.

But there are lies in this world. This is one of those films in which the main character is not who he thinks he is, his entire life is a lie. There’s a bunch of these movies out there that have a main character whose whole life is a lie. I’m doing an article on these types of films so keep an eye out for that, but basically, the message is that you are being lied to by the system, and when I say the system, I mean the powers that be, the media, the government, the big companies that rule everything, big money, the man, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the idea that we’ve been taught one thing, when in reality, things are entirely another way. Take for example the idea of god, as the being who created us, religion as a whole. Is it all real, the idea of an old man floating up in heaven, sitting on a golden throne room with a bunch of angels flying around singing songs to him? The film also addresses this issue, and blasts it into Oblivion. This is a film that is tired of the lies, and wants to unmask them, it longs to unmask the powers that be and show them for what they are.

Take for example war, and the way the media will immediately make you think that people from a certain country are evil or your enemies. I’ve never agreed with this because there is a distinct difference that we as people need to realize, governments are not the same as the people they rule. Sometimes a government will do something which its people do not agree with, but we cannot vilify an entire ethnicity, an entire country for the madness that their government commits. Oblivion speaks of these themes saying if we look at things closer, if we search for the details, for the truth, we’ll realize that we are them, and they are us. Like that scene in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) where two enemies at war with each other, end up in close hand to hand combat and end up looking at each other in the eyes and suddenly realize: what are we doing here? Why are we killing each other? Who has programmed us and put us here?  Most of the time, soldiers go to a war and they don’t even know why they are there, same as the character of Jack in Oblivion, who does his job, but doesn’t even know for what purpose. He’s just here to get the job done. Like a soldier who simply follows orders, without knowing why he's doing what he's doing.

As you can see, Oblivion is a pretty deep movie. Yet, its strength in design is not to be ignored. I mean, visually, conceptually, the film is a wonder. Hell, yes, this movie is cool looking! I personally enjoyed these robot drones that appear on the film, they look so robotic, and the sounds these robots emit make them come off as so evil, so cold and inhuman! I’m pretty sure this is exactly what they aimed to project with these drones and in my book they achieved it. True, Oblivion does have themes and situations that will remind you of other sci-fi films you have seen. Some moments reminded me of The Matrix (1999) and The Terminator (1984) others of Wall-E (2008) and Independence Day (1996). It even pays homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) in some points, but at the same time, Oblivion is a film that gives you lot’s of surprises, new ideas and twists keep popping up all the time, so while it does have similarities with older films, it keeps things interesting and flowing. This was a well made movie, it’s brainy, intelligent sci-fi, with great effects, great moments of action, and heavy themes. A grade A sci-fi film with a rebellious streak to it and lot’s to say, highly recommended.

Rating:  4 out of 5   


Dan O. said...

Good review Francisco. There is some fun to be had with this movie, but not too much considering that most of it is something that we've seen done, a hundred times before.

Franco Macabro said...

I understand what you mean, I picked up a lot moments that I could trace back to other movies.

Kosinski has said that the film is a homage to sci-fi of the 70's, so thats also part of the deal, but also, so many films are this way, so many films have elements from something else.

This is the reason why I always mention what films the film I review reminds me of, because there's always a connection.

But you know how the saying goes, it's not what you say, but how you say it, and I thought the way they told it had enough surprises to keep me interested, plus the visuals were pretty slick. The design that went into the picture, astounding.


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