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Oblivion (Blu-ray Review)

2 Aug, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 8/6/13
Box Office $89.11 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity.
Stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell.

Oblivion is a fascinating synthesis of concepts seen in numerous other sci-fi classics, reconstructed for our amusement. That’s not to say Oblivion, as directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), isn’t a well-assembled bit of escapism with several intriguing ideas.

Tom Cruise stars as Jack Harper, who in a rich bit of opening narration informs us that he is one of the last people living on Earth in 2077 following an alien invasion that devastated the planet, forcing humanity to relocate to an off-world colony. Jack’s job is to repair the machines that are preparing resources for the colony, and protect them from alien scavengers that stayed behind.

Complicating Jack’s mission is the fact he has strange dreams of a woman in the past, despite having had his memory wiped before his assignment. He also has no desire to leave Earth when his task is complete. This makes him especially receptive to revelations that challenge his worldview.

Anyone who has seen his or her fair share of genre films will recognize the DNA of a litany of previous works, including but not limited to Total Recall, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, Independence Day, Planet of the Apes, Predator, The Empire Strikes Back and even Wall-E. Seriously, a group of libatious geeks could fashion a serviceable drinking game by naming other films evoked by Oblivion. For his part, Kosinski in the extras admits to being influenced primarily by “The Twilight Zone” and movies such as The Omega Man and Silent Running.

However, the production values are outstanding, and the filmmakers know it. That’s probably why the Blu-ray includes an isolated audio track of the vibrant musical score by French band M83, which lets the viewer bask in the stunning visuals without the distraction of trying to follow a storyline that, when all the cards are on the table, doesn’t make much sense.

The Blu-ray extras are highlighted by five behind-the-scenes featurettes that provide a fascinating look at the production process, especially the visual effects, many of which were achieved with simple yet clever practical techniques and enhanced with CGI (such as a set being constructed on a giant soundstage surrounded by a massive screen onto which background scenes were projected). Another bit relays how Cruise does his own stunts to give the filmmakers more freedom to set up creative camera angles.

It’s also fun to hear Cruise on the commentary with Kosinski, if only because he’s never short on praise for everyone he worked with on the project. But he’s also a veteran actor, and that experience gives him some good insights to share about the filmmaking process.

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