Watching Oblivion feels like you’ve entered the mind of about five different writers who all sat down at their desks one day and said “how far can I stretch the believability of a story?” These writers then met up over coffee, combined their equally outlandish ideas, had a good laugh, and said “don’t worry, we’ll hire Tom Cruise”.
Oblivion really is oblivious to a solid plot line. One minute you’re heading in one direction, not completely understanding but getting along fine enough, when suddenly – BAM! – a plot twist that makes nearly everything you’ve just seen completely irrelevant. It’s an odd combination of predictability and unquestionable confusion. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many sighs of exasperation from an audience.
The film follows Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) as he cleans up an abandoned Earth, repairing drones who pick off the remnants of alien invaders. Think Wall-E, but with more pest-control. With me so far? The drones don’t seem to like him much, targeting him every chance they get but, don’t worry, I’m sure their programming is flawless and they will never bring him any harm. After Jack gets significantly dirty, yet not quite dirty enough to show his lady-friend at home that he had a rough day, he falls down a hole and is cornered by a bunch of aliens – a plot point you think would be a game-changer… but it’s not. He’s fine, he climbs out, he goes home. And we sit back and wait once again for the movie to really begin.
When does it begin? Surprisingly enough, the moment Jamie Lannister walks in. Frequently referred to as “Lieutenant” or “That Guy”, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s role is to stand in the background and look displeased. He plays it very well. I was disappointed to find out that he has as much significance and perhaps even more screen time than Morgan Freeman. The trailer may trick you into thinking Freeman and his awesome voice are crucial to the plot, but he only appears for about 15 minutes in the total 125. His character is just one of many clichés in the film, covering everything from Star Wars to the housewife in six-inch heals.
After a healthy dose of Cruise’s go-to acting faces (his “I’m pointing a gun” face, his “romance” face, and my favourite, his “pretending to look calm but actually dealing with unparalleled confusion” face), the movie comes to an end. Just like that. You sit there in the dark before the credits thinking “whaaaaaat?” In a film with so many plot twists you expect most of it to come together in the final moments; a happy unison of concept and understanding. Well, nope. Early conflicts are forgotten, heroes-turned-villains-turned-heroes-turned-villains are turned heroes again, and you have absolutely no idea who the “bad guy” is. Is it the aliens? Is it the robots? Is it that catfish who swam into one scene (ironically in a world with almost no water)? And why oh why is it called Oblivion? Because the whole thing makes you feel mind-wiped? I wasn’t expecting the movie of the year, and I admit the CGI surpassed expectations, but everything else was so obscure it was laughable. If you plan to watch it, be happy to enjoy the shots of futuristic interior decorating and nifty fold-into-your-trunk dirt bikes, but don’t expect much else. And be especially forewarned that the laser-gun “piew piew” sounds may or may not haunt your dreams.