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By Patrick Samuel • August 15th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Universal Pictures

Release date: August 19th, 2013
Running time: 126 minutes

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt
Composers: Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese

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


Is oblivion something we experience when the world and our way of life’s been lost? Or is oblivion something we face when our own sense of self is called into question? It’s perhaps both, and in Joseph Kosinski’s latest film he tackles these twin issues amidst dazzling futuristic visuals and an Earth shuddering score by Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese.

Its story is set in the future after an alien invasion where humans were forced to use nuclear weapons. The resulting war left the planet in ruins as giant tidal waves engulfed cities and destroyed everything in their path. Although the humans won the war, they had to abandon the planet and set off to live on Titan, one of Saturn’s orbiting moons. We meet Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a former marine commander and one of the last few drone mechanics stationed on Earth. He lives in a sterile looking tower high above the ground together with his also sterile looking colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough).

Jack isn’t supposed to remember anything of life before the war due to a mandatory memory wipe they’ve undergone. This doesn’t stop him from having cryptic dreams about New York City as it once was, with the new World Trade Centre tower, the Empire State building and a mysterious woman he feels a connection to. He spends as much time on Earth as he possibly can despite the dangers of radiation and the infected zones, recounting to Victoria through their communications set what it must’ve been like to see a baseball game, but he’s never able to persuade her to join him.


There are still alien scavengers around and this forms much of the danger we see – or sense – in the first half of Oblivion. Eventually, Jack comes into contact with the woman from his dreams, and also the scavengers, and as we learn more about the invasion that took place sixty years previously, everything Jack knows – including himself – is called into question, making for what should be an interesting existential crisis unfolding on screen.

Unfortunately that’s not really the case. Though it takes its cues visually and/or audibly from everything we’ve seen in science fiction ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Wars (1977), Contact (1997), The Matrix (1999), Moon (2009), TRON: Legacy (2010), Inception (2010) and Prometheus (2012), Oblivion faces quite a few problems with the main two being that its story is a weak one and the dialogue often manages to oversimplify and overstate key moments by having either its characters talking it away or letting its lush musical score blow it out of proportion. Most of what should be shown is instead explained away, leaving much of the film to fizzle out with long drawn out scenes that don’t give us anything to move the plot along.

Other problems include the casting. Neither female leads, Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, lend anything interesting to the story or offer us any surprises with their characters. It all feels too familiar, very predictable and extremely weak against Oblivionsuch an impressive visual backdrop created by the special effects team. As for Cruise, well it’s Cruise and we know what to expect; he’s the all American hero who, despite the odds, will do everything possible to come on top, and the same goes for his character here.

Without these drawbacks, Oblivion might’ve been the film of the post/9/11 generation to make science fiction film enthusiasts like myself proud. The visuals, together with the score make it stunning to look at and to listen to. It’s flawless in that sense and Kosinski fills the palette with more colours than we saw in TRON: Legacy, something which I was glad to see. Like with Prometheus, we’re treated to some stunning Earth views with the cinematography. As for the soundtrack, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese manage to create one of my favourite scores so far since that film as well.

It’s just a shame Oblivion didn’t have the story to match, or dialogue or silence when it needed to it to make such a triumph possible. As a film which takes it upon itself to ask some of the most fundamental issues surrounding human nature, it was disappointing to watch it fall into…oblivion.


Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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