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oblivion 2013 movie review

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If nothing else, "Oblivion" will go down in film history as the movie where Tom Cruise pilots a white, sperm-shaped craft into a giant space uterus. The scene is more interesting to describe than it is to watch. Cruise's sperm-ship enters through an airlock that resembles a geometrized vulva. He arrives inside a massive chamber lined with egg-like glass bubbles. At the center of the chamber is a pulsating, sentient triangle that is also supposed to be some kind of mother figure. Cruise must destroy the mother triangle and her space uterus in order to save the Earth.

Like director Joseph Kosinski's debut, " Tron: Legacy " (2010), "Oblivion" is a special effects extravaganza with a lot of blatant symbolism and very little meaning. It starts slow, turns dull and then becomes tedious — which makes it a marginal improvement over the earlier film. It features shiny surfaces, clicky machinery and no recognizable human behavior. It's equally ambitious and gormless.

"Oblivion" is set in the year 2077, 60 years after an alien invasion rendered the Earth largely uninhabitable. Cruise stars as Jack Harper, one of a handful of people left on the planet. The other survivors have long since relocated to Titan. Harper and colleagues remain as technicians, servicing robot drones that defend resource-gathering stations from alien stragglers.

Harper lives in a penthouse-like tower with his communications officer, Vica ( Andrea Riseborough ). Vica's eyes are permanently dilated. Like Olivia Wilde 's Quorra in " Tron: Legacy ," she often resembles a marionette.

Harper and Vica spend their days fixing drones, eating candelit dinners, and swimming in a glass-bottomed pool. Their boss, the creepily cheerful Sally ( Melissa Leo ), supervises them from an orbiting control center. In order to maintain the integrity of the mission, Harper and Vica's memories have been wiped; nonetheless, Harper is haunted by extremely cheesy black-and-white dreams of a beautiful woman meeting him in pre-invasion New York.

One day, Harper spots an antique spacecraft crashing into the countryside. He manages to rescue one survivor, a Russian astronaut ( Olga Kurylenko ) who looks exactly like the woman in his dreams. Harper brings her back to his tower. This incites jealousy and suspicion from Vica, who is both Harper's partner and his lover.

The astronaut has been in cryogenic sleep for the past six decades but refuses to disclose the nature of her mission to Harper and Vica until they recover her flight recorder. It goes without saying that the flight recorder unearths all kinds of secrets about Harper, Vica, and the alien invasion. It also creates one of the movie's more glaring logical errors, but that's a different story altogether.

The film's opening stretch is its one strong point —  a gradual, immersive build-up of details. It's a smart technique for science-fiction storytelling; it eases the viewer into the world of the film. The problem is that the world "Oblivion" introduces — an abandoned, depopulated Earth — is more interesting than the story it tells. Or, more accurately, the stories it tells, because "Oblivion," derivative to a fault, tries to be several science-fiction movies at once. It tries and it fails.

"Oblivion" is a political allegory about a lowly "technician" sending unmanned drones to hunt and kill a demonized, alien Other — until it forgets that it ever was. It's a wannabe mindbender that raises questions about its lead character's identity — except that the lead character is too sketchy to make these questions compelling. It's a story about humans struggling for survival in an environment controlled by technology — except it appears to be much more interested in the technology than in the humans. It's a rah-rah action flick — except its action scenes aren't very good.

The only thread "Oblivion" follows to the end is its "creation myth." Harper is an idealized man; he's good with a gun, good with his hands, good in bed, loves football and rides a motorcycle. Though most of the movie's characters are women, not one of them is able to do anything without Harper's help — not even the mother triangle that lives in the space uterus. Only his rugged-but-sensitive masculinity holds the key to humanity's survival. The movie reaches for profundity, but all it grasps is misogyny.

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Film credits.

Oblivion movie poster

Oblivion (2013)

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity

126 minutes

Tom Cruise as Jack

Morgan Freeman as Beech

Olga Kurylenko as Julia

Andrea Riseborough as Victoria

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Sykes

Melissa Leo as Sally

  • Joseph Kosinski
  • Karl Gajdusek
  • Michael Arndt

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Oblivion Reviews

oblivion 2013 movie review

There’s no denying that Oblivion is derivative.... But director Joseph Kosinski, adapting his own graphic novel, sure knows how to make it look beautiful and evocative.

Full Review | Nov 6, 2022

oblivion 2013 movie review

Oblivion’s characters do little more than service the puzzle-based plot, leaving the sometimes predictable dialogue to the actors to enhance.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4 | Sep 12, 2022

oblivion 2013 movie review

The eye-popping visuals help create a futuristic wonder, and the Iceland locations give a perfect sense of desolation.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 24, 2022

oblivion 2013 movie review

A grab bag of ancient (in movie terms) sci-fi ideas, Oblivion is a sharp-looking film that will, through its own paucity of invention, be quickly consigned to history.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 | Jun 9, 2022

oblivion 2013 movie review

Filled with amazing post-apocalyptic spectacle, dazzling action sequences, and a heady story of twists and turns, the challenge of "Oblivion" is whether or not you, as the audience, can allow the strong visuals to make up for the weak narrative.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Apr 14, 2021

oblivion 2013 movie review

A competently made sci-fi action movie - something that can't be said about the majority of the genre.

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Dec 4, 2020

oblivion 2013 movie review

Visually arresting and in moments exquisite.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4.0 | Sep 18, 2020

oblivion 2013 movie review

On a pure surface level, the film is well made ... but this seems like it was aimed at an audience that has never seen a science fiction film before.

Full Review | Original Score: B- | Jul 27, 2020

oblivion 2013 movie review

Because Oblivion borrows heavily from other sci-fi films, it lacks distinction in making the film truly it's own.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jul 14, 2020

oblivion 2013 movie review

Oblivion may be a masterwork on the visual side, but it is a complete void in every other arena.

Full Review | Original Score: C | Jul 9, 2020

oblivion 2013 movie review

An eye-popping thriller that actually makes its audience work to piece together its twisty plot.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.2/5 | Nov 19, 2019

oblivion 2013 movie review

Oblivion is a remarkable feat of computer-graphic design...

Full Review | Aug 14, 2019

oblivion 2013 movie review

You could do a lot worse than this movie, that is clearly trying to bring the many classics and best of science fiction together with new ideas... gorgeous visual style and exciting special effects.

Full Review | Jul 30, 2019

oblivion 2013 movie review

A wholly satisfying post-apocalyptic adventure that blazes new trails while channeling some of the greatest science-fiction films of all time.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Jun 8, 2019

oblivion 2013 movie review

Kosinski creates a good-looking film, with sweeping landscapes and some nice special effects that keep the audience interested. But that interest wanes as the story begins to unfold.

Full Review | Apr 10, 2019

There's something sturdy and likable about the way [Joseph] Kosinski tells his big story around just a few characters, drawn together across an empty planet.

Full Review | Feb 26, 2019

An emotionally-barren and tediously convoluted film, brimming with risible dialogue and plastic performances.

Full Review | Original Score: 1/5 | Feb 13, 2019

oblivion 2013 movie review

[Director Joseph Kosinski] executes his vision with excellence.

Full Review | Jan 26, 2019

The story here can veer into the preposterous at times, as stories of this sort often do. But more important, it provides Tom Cruise lots of opportunities to look cool.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Dec 12, 2018

oblivion 2013 movie review

Although opulent, ambitious and populated with fine performers that try to breathe some creative life into the sporadic script, Oblivion is stiff thematically and fails to deliver a premium-plus pulse of twitchy intrigue and surging suspense

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4 | Nov 17, 2018

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  • Movie Review

‘Oblivion’ review: a post-apocalyptic beauty that succeeds even while it stumbles

The director of 'tron: legacy' takes tom cruise on a trip into a grim future.

By Bryan Bishop on April 17, 2013 09:00 am 206 Comments

oblivion 2013 movie review

2013 is shaping up to be the year of the high-end science fiction movie. With the likes of Will Smith and Matt Damon starring in new genre films, and some major blockbusters from J.J. Abrams and Guillermo del Toro just around the corner, there's a lot to choose from. Kicking the summer off is Oblivion . Starring Tom Cruise, it’s the second feature from Joseph Kosinski, the filmmaker behind Tron: Legacy . Part action movie, part puzzle, it’s a film whose beauty and emotional aspirations ultimately overpower the story problems it runs into along the way.

The set-up is standard dystopian fare. It’s 2077. Earth is an irradiated wasteland thanks to an alien invasion 60 years ago, and while the majority of the human race has retired to one of Saturn’s moons, some have stayed behind to tend to the drones that patrol the ravaged landscape.

Cruise is Jack Harper — at 50, the star's finally starting to look 42 — who's partnered with Vika (a vulnerable Andrea Riseborough). Jack is the mechanic of the pair, flying out to repair the drones while Vika acts as his eye-in-the-sky navigator. Working out of a sci-fi dream home on a platform above the clouds, the pair are almost done with their mission. Two more weeks and they'll finally be reunited with the rest of humanity. But while Vika is anxious to leave Earth behind, Jack's not so sure. He's a romantic, pining for the normalcy that was destroyed long ago — not to mention the strange woman he sees in his dreams (Olga Kurylenko).

If there's one thing the Kosinski established with Tron: Legacy , it was that he knows how to craft astounding visuals, so let's cut to the chase: Oblivion is one of the most beautiful films I've seen this year. It's so achingly gorgeous, I wouldn't be surprised if I hold the same opinion come December. Every single moment and shot is meticulously crafted and composed: the desolate ruins on Earth, the architectural touches of Jack and Vika's home (imagine if Jony Ive designed Cloud City with a swimming pool). The large canvas gives Kosinski room to stretch out, and the work by production designer Darren Gilford and Oscar-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda is breathtaking. The film was shot in 4K with Sony's F65 and the RED Epic — and shows once again that while digital photography may not precisely replicate film, it has matured into a format with equal artistic potential.

Having worked with Daft Punk on the Tron soundtrack, Kosinski turns to another electronic artist here — and the results from M83 are just as impressive. Percolating synthesizers and tribal drums dominate during action sequences, but yield to yearning orchestral strings in quieter moments. It's not just bombast and accompaniment; it's score in the true sense of the word.

For all the aural and visual splendor, however, there is a sense of familiarity throughout the film. The concept smacks of Pixar's Wall-E ; sound effects echo Inception ; and the costume of one of the "scavs" that roam Earth's surface bears a jarring resemblance to Ralph McQuarrie's original concept art for Darth Vader . Familiar genre tropes show up, and fans of science fiction will likely spot many of the movie's twists and turns coming from far away. That said, it doesn't play as repetition. Instead, it's more like a comfortable pair of pajamas; Oblivion mashes up what we've seen before into a Nolan-lite pastiche that feels just right.

The largest stumbles come down to performance and story, issues that also plagued Tron . Morgan Freeman shows up in a extremely clunky secondary plotline to act as an exposition engine — slowing the movie down in the process — and Kurylenko's Julia is given very little to do, despite how important those mysterious dreams are to Jack. Even worse, after a satisfying slow burn the film's climax falls flat. (There's nothing worse than when you know the intention is for the audience to fist pump and shout "Hell, yeah!" — yet you're doing neither.)

Many of those weaknesses fall away when viewing the movie as a whole, however — and it all comes down to Oblivion 's longing heart. It's a dichotomy echoed by M83's score, actually; despite the spectacle, this isn't a movie about genre, robots, or even the difficulties of post-apocalyptic survival. It's a story about wanting a normal, average life in the face of impossible circumstances. Cruise is an odd casting choice in this regard. Nobody's been more consistent in playing cinematic supermen, but the actor ends up pulling off what is ultimately a very human story, and the film stayed on my mind long after I walked out of the theater.

Oblivion aspires to what sci-fi does best: provide a convenient genre platform to explore the human condition.

Even more exciting, it represents a real step forward for Kosinski, who displayed visual prowess in Tron: Legacy but had a hard time making the audience care about, you know, the actual humans . If he continues on this trajectory, he may eventually build up story and character chops that match his visual acumen — and that's when things will get really exciting.

Oblivion is currently playing internationally. It opens in the US on April 19th. If you have the opportunity to see it in IMAX, do it.

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Film Review: ‘Oblivion’

A moderately clever dystopian mindbender with a gratifying human pulse, despite some questionable narrative developments along the way

By Justin Chang

Justin Chang

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'Oblivion' Review: Tom Cruise Stars in Moderately Clever Sci-Fi Pic

Although Universal’s publicity department has asked that journalists refrain from spilling the secrets of “ Oblivion ,” the major revelations, once they arrive, will hardly surprise anyone familiar with “Total Recall,” “The Matrix” and the countless other sci-fi touchstones hovering over this striking, visually resplendent adventure. Pitting the latest action-hero incarnation of Tom Cruise against an army of alien marauders, director Joseph Kosinski ‘s follow-up to “ Tron: Legacy ” is a moderately clever dystopian mindbender with a gratifying human pulse, despite some questionable narrative developments along the way. The less-than-airtight construction and conventional resolution may rankle genre devotees, though hardly to the detriment of robust overall B.O.

Getting the blockbuster season off to an early start on April 19, when it opens Stateside in wide release and in Imax theaters, “Oblivion” reps the latest test of Cruise’s bankability, coming mere months after he tried on a new ass-kicking persona with “ Jack Reacher .” This time he’s Jack Harper, and without giving too much away, there’s an amusing, perhaps unintended existential subtext here about the somewhat interchangeable men of action Cruise has played over the course of his career. Still, the actor’s first foray into science fiction in eight years (if you don’t count “Rock of Ages”) comes with a more intriguing backstory than most.

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It’s the year 2077, six decades after the people of Earth fought and vanquished an evil race of space invaders called Scavengers. But victory has come at a great cost. The planet is now an uninhabitable post-nuclear wasteland, and Jack (Cruise) is one of the last men still stationed on Earth, a fighter pilot/technician assigned to fend off stray Scavengers and repair the powerful drones overseeing a massive hydroelectric energy project necessary for the survival of the human species. It all looks and sounds a bit like a live-action remake of “ Wall-E ,” right down to the way the protagonist, spurred by natural curiosity and an unexpected love interest, finds himself on a dangerous unauthorized mission.

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Until now, Jack has worked effectively enough with Vika ( Andrea Riseborough ), who guides his repair jobs with cool, formidable efficiency from the glassy confines of their high-tech home base (referred to as the Skytower, though it might as well be called the iPad). But unlike his partner, Jack is a dreamer and a bit of a poet, someone who can’t help reminiscing about the past or questioning everyone’s future. Haunted by pre-apocalyptic visions of a beautiful mystery woman ( Olga Kurylenko ), he can’t quite grasp why humanity, having won the war, has decided to permanently abandon its native planet for an uncertain future in space.

As he steers his sleek, pod-like aircraft over a landscape of eerie, desolate beauty, dotted with craters and radiation zones as well as lush, unspoiled lakes and valleys, Jack can’t quite shake the feeling that all is not as it appears to be, despite the chipper directives coming from the mothership (represented by a crackling TV image of Melissa Leo, boasting a deceptively sweet Southern drawl). Indeed, the audience will likely have a clear sense of what’s going on long before scribes Karl Gajdusek and Michael DeBruyn (working from a 2005 short story that Kosinski later developed into a graphic novel) get around to spelling things out; suffice to say the title refers to more than just the physical aftermath of Earth’s cataclysmic destruction.

Apart from an initial burst of neo-noir narration and a few moderately pulse-quickening action sequences, one of them set in the impressively imagined ruins of the New York Public Library, the first half of “Oblivion” adopts a spare, unhurried approach that conveys a powerfully enveloping sense of Jack’s isolation. Kosinski wastes no opportunity to linger — and you can’t blame him — on his alternately seductive and staggering visuals, richly conceived by production designer Darren Gilford and filmed with marvelous fluidity on the new Sony F65 digital camera by Claudio Miranda (following his Oscar-winning work on “Life of Pi” with another accomplished integration of cinematography and visual effects).

This patient narrative strategy works well enough until Jack’s big questions finally start to yield answers – many of them delivered, as answers so often are, by the sage presence of Morgan Freeman – and the story’s underlying thinness and predictability gradually become apparent. The superficial cleverness of the plotting, with its elements of amnesia, self-delusion and impossible yearning, at times gestures in the direction of a Christopher Nolan brainteaser (as does the surging score by French band M83, which sounds like electronified Hans Zimmer). But the lack of comparable rigor, ingenuity and procedural detail is naggingly evident, as is the almost feel-good manner in which the story explains away some of its morally troubling implications.

If “Tron: Legacy” offered up an eye-popping playground with more videogame potential than human interest, “Oblivion,” despite similarly immersive environs, provides greater moment-to-moment dramatic involvement. Cruise combines his usual physical agility and daredevil stuntwork with one of his more affable characters in a while, a high-flying dreamer trying to figure out mankind’s place in this brave new world . Although much of the picture is essentially a one-man show, Riseborough locates the blood and passion beneath Vika’s icy surface, while Kurylenko brings flickers of feeling to an underwritten role.

Kosinski’s architectural background is apparent in the picture’s suave, rounded design concepts and clean, coherent compositions, the effect of which is gloriously enveloping in Imax. Insofar as “Oblivion” is first and foremost a visual experience, a movie to be seen rather than a puzzle to be deciphered, its chief pleasures are essentially spoiler-proof.

Reviewed at AMC Century City 15, Los Angeles, April 8, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 125 MIN.

A Universal release presented in association with Relativity Media of a Chernin Entertainment/Monolith Pictures/ Radical Studios production. Produced by Joseph Kosinski, Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Barry Levine , Duncan Henderson. Executive producers, Dave Morrison, Jesse Berger, Justin Springer. Co-producers, Steve Gaub, R.J. Mino, Bruce Franklin, Mike Larocca .

Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Screenplay, Karl Gajdusek, Michael DeBruyn, based on the graphic novel original story by Kosinski. Camera (Deluxe color, 4k, Imax), Claudio Miranda; editor, Richard Franchis-Bruce; music, M83; production designer, Darren Gilford; supervising art director, Kevin Ishioka; art director, Mark W. Mansbridge; set decorator, Ronald R. Reiss; costume designer, Marlene Stewart; sound (Datasat/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Paul Ledford; supervising sound designer, Ren Kylce; supervising sound editors, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Al Nelson; re-recording mixers, Gary A. Rizzo, Juan Peralta; special effects coordinator, Mike Meinardus; visual effects supervisors, Eric Barbra, Bjorn Mayer; visual effects, Digital Domain, Pixomondo; stunt coordinator, Robert Alonzo; associate producer, Emily Cheung; assistant director, Bruce Franklin; second unit director, Alonzo; second unit camera, Gary Waller; casting, Marcia Ross.

Cast: Tom Cruise , Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo.

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Oblivion: film review.

Universal's sci-fi thriller, from "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski, opens April 19.

By Todd McCarthy

Todd McCarthy

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Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman: 'Oblivion' Film Review

Oblivion Trailer Screengrab - H 2013

A sort of The Eternal Return played out in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic planet Earth, Joseph Kosinski ‘s  Oblivion is an absolutely gorgeous film dramatically caught between its aspirations for poetic romanticism and the demands of heavy sci-fi action. After a captivating beginning brimming with mystery and evident ambition, the air gradually seeps out of the balloon that keeps this thinly populated tale aloft, leaving the ultimate impression of a nice try that falls somewhat short of the mark. There’s enough futuristic eye candy and battle scenes to lure the genre boys, while the presence of three important female characters, as well as Tom Cruise in good form, could attract more women than usual for this sort of fare, resulting in mostly robust, but not great, returns worldwide. The Universal release opens this week in most international territories, while the domestic bow comes April 19.

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To those who might wish to avoid a film by the maker of Tron: Legacy , it should be stressed that Oblivion is a more interesting work by a good distance, an imaginative speculative piece set some six decades hence that always engages serious attention, even if it doesn’t convincingly jell. In mood, a certain delicacy and the sense of isolation both on a depopulated Earth and somewhere above it, the recent film that this most strongly recalls is WALL-E , except with violence and without the humor and charm of the Pixar classic.

The Bottom Line A terrific-looking sci-fier that loses steam in the second half.

PHOTOS: The Costumes of ‘Tron’

There have been many films set on an Earth depleted of humans, but few as visually enthralling as this one. Shot by Claudio Miranda of Life of Pi , Oblivion shares that film’s lovely light, nuanced coloration and virtually seamless meshing of live photography and effects. In neither film is it always possible to be entirely sure of what is real and what’s computer generated, but the result is beautiful however it breaks down.

After what appear to be memory flashes of a previous life back in an early 21st century New York City on the part of Cruise’s Jack Harper, he and his partner Vika ( Andrea Riseborough ) wake up in what can only take the prize as the ultimate loft space, circa 2077, a perch that’s the last word in minimalist chic. It also affords unobstructed views of what’s been left behind after the catastrophe that saw the moon blown into pieces, which in turn resulted in earthly ruin and a subsequent evacuation of survivors to Saturn’s planet Titan.

Jack (Cruise’s second use of the name in a row, after Jack Reacher ) takes daily spins down to Earth in a bladeless, mosquito-like helicopter, while the British Vika tracks his movements and coordinates with headquarters, personified on a screen by the friendly, Southern-accented Sally ( Melissa Leo ). The self-described “mop-up crew,” Jack and Sally, who get on well, have only two weeks to go before they finish up and head for Titan.

On the ground, Jack looks for any signs of Scavengers, or Scavs, who, apparently, were defeated in the great war but still provoke worries with their desperate ambushes. He also must avoid the radioactive zones, which remain hot. Everywhere he goes, however, Jack is protected by drones, fast-flying globe-like hi-tech wonders that are armed to the teeth and can reliably detect friend or foe.

Jack seems to relish being haunted by the past. He wears a Yankees cap, nostalgically wallows in lore surrounding the final Super Bowl, played in 2017, while surrounded by the ruins of the stadium where it took place and uses the upper part of the Empire State Building, which sticks out of the ground that has swallowed the rest of the structure, as a sort of home base and control tower.

Jack also is inordinately fond of a collection of highfalutin Victorian-era verse by Thomas Macaulay  titled The Lays of Ancient Rome , especially the line that reads, “And how can man die better than facing fearful odds.” Given that Jack seems to be the last man responsible for tidying up affairs on Earth, he’d better not die prematurely, though there is someone or something down there that seems bent on catching him.

STORY: Tom Cruise Plans Imax Q&A to Promote Universal Pictures’ ‘Oblivion’

The film’s delightful sense of apartness in the early going and the industrious way that Vika, especially, approaches her task of administering to the final business of Earth are things that can’t last, especially not after Jack brings home the one survivor of a mysterious crash of a spaceship carrying several hibernating humans. Once she wakes up and recovers, Julia ( Olga Kurylenko ) throws a monkey wrench into life in the loft, not only because she is so beautiful (Riseborough’s alarmed reactions to her are indelibly registered) but because she is an arrival from the past, when she was Jack’s wife.

Revelations of what follows are best not detailed, except to say that Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, respectively, play the intelligent and impulsive members of a rebel band that soon captures Jack and Julia. As much as Jack aspires to recapture the past, however, and regardless of Julia’s evident purity of intent, the renewed relationship doesn’t click as intended, mostly because it’s tough to buy the conceit of the couple reunited after so long.

Further twists and betrayals lie in store, but they feel more like obligatory plot complications than organic to the overall story. As a result, viewer engagement gradually lessens, leading to a climax that makes for thematic sense but dramatic head-scratching.

There’s a bit too much manly stunt stuff, the better likes of which we’ve seen in the Mission: Impossible extravaganzas and elsewhere, but generally Cruise plays it naturalistic and low-key here, likable and to solid effect. Riseborough, who was the one person worth watching in Madonna ‘s wretched W.E. , is an inspired bit of casting as she brings prim, snappy delivery to many routine lines and irrepressible emotion to her later behavior. Kurylenko is more than plausible as a woman who would inspire recurring dreams in Jack, while Leo has so much personality that she can burst right through the limitations of her video screen-only appearances and still register strongly.

Technically, the film is a dream; if Tron: Legacy showed that Kosinski was right at home in an imaginary, effects-created world, then Oblivion reveals him as well along the road toward applying effects to even grander ends, in this case to a story he originally conceived years ago as a graphic novel that was adapted as a script by Karl Gajdusek and Michael DeBruyn .

The unconventional electronic score by M83 is terrifically effective for the first hour and maybe more until it starts becoming a bit repetitive.

Opens: April 10-12 (international), April 19 (U.S.) (Universal)

Production: Chernin Entertainment, Monolith Pictures, Radical Studios

Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Screenwriters: Karl Gajdusek, Michael DeBruyn , based on the graphic novel original story by Joseph Kosinski

Producers: Joseph Kosinski, Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Barry Levine, Duncan Henderson

Executive producers: Dave Morrison, Jesse Berger, Justin Springer

Director of photography: Claudio Miranda

Production designer: Darren Gilford

Costume designer: Marlene Stewart

Editor: Richard Francis-Bruce

Visual effects supervisors: Eric Barba, Bjorn Mayer

PG-13 rating, 124 minutes

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Oblivion Movie Review

Stylishly directed by Tron: Legacy?s Joseph Kosinski, Oblivion is one of those easy-on-the-eyes post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies that lives or dies by its pretzel-logic plot. Sadly, what we have here is a stale pretzel. I would describe the movie as a mash-up of The Matrix , Blade Runner , and Planet of the Apes , but that makes it sound better than it is.

The year is 2077 and Tom Cruise—proving that at age 50 he can still run, jump, and brawl like a man in his twenties—plays Jack Harper, a can-do engineer stationed on Earth 60 years after the planet was totaled by an alien race that destroyed the moon, which led to an Armageddon of tsunamis, earthquakes, and nuclear annihilation. What was left of the human race shipped off to Titan, one of the moons of Saturn, leaving behind the detritus of our defeated civilization (football stadiums in ashes, a leaning Washington Monument — you know, typical Roland Emmerich stuff). The only folks left behind on the uninhabitable planet are Jack and his submissive, sex-kitten supervisor Victoria ( W.E. ?s Andrea Riseborough), who live in a sleek glass Jetsons pad in the clouds and whose memories were wiped before they were assigned to their not-so-glamorous new gig.

Jack heads down to Earth?s barren surface every day to repair cue ball-like patrol drones that scan the landscape for rebel alien ?Scavengers?, while Victoria checks in with Mission Control (Melissa Leo sporting a syrupy Foghorn Leghorn drawl that telegraphs that she?s up to no good). Even though his memory has been erased, Jack still has flickers of the past?mostly of a beautiful mystery woman ( Quantum of Solace ?s Olga Kurylenko) on the Empire State Building?s observation deck (where else?). Then one day, Jack investigates a spacecraft that crash lands in the desert and finds the jettisoned crew of the ship asleep in cryo-pods. The only one to survive is?the woman from his dreams.

Jack?s discovery makes him question his mission and his identity. Familiar, right? All that?s missing is Harrison Ford in a trench coat and an origami unicorn. Even Morgan Freeman?s small role (it looks a lot meatier in the trailer) feels like he?s doing a karaoke version of Lawrence Fishburne?s Morpheus.

Kosinski, who made the unnecessary 2010 Tron reboot look so cool, manages to cough up some memorable action sequences. Cruise has one aerial dogfight sequence in a spaceship through vertiginous canyons that?s so thrilling it will make you feel like you?re watching Top Gun ?s Maverick back in action. The actor gets to model hi-tech jumpsuits (paired with an old-school New York Yankees cap?figures) and indulge his need for speed, zipping around in some gee-whiz futuristic hardware. And, as always, he proves why he?s been a perfect engine of gung-ho Hollywood professionalism for the past three decades. The man?s incapable of half-assing it or phoning it in. But unlike his characters in Minority Report and War of the Worlds , he?s a bit of a cypher here.

Thanks to Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda ( Life of Pi ), Oblivion has enough special-effects artistry to keep you distracted for a while. But all the eye candy in the world can?t mask the sensation that you?ve seen this all before?and done better. Too bad the movie?s script wasn?t given the same attention as its sleek, brave-new-world look. C+

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“oh no way”: scarlett johansson beams as jeff goldblum welcomes her to the jurassic park franchise, the perfect movie to watch while waiting for top gun 3 just got a thrilling first trailer, melodrama and predictable reveals keep the film from being the mind-bending creation that kosinski may have envisioned, but the director still presents a captivating future with rich visuals..

In Oblivion , Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is part of a two-person crew tasked with protecting Earth's remaining resources following a cataclysmic alien invasion that left the planet uninhabitable. Along with his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), Jack oversees and maintains a deadly armada of defense drones - charged with shielding massive resource harvesters from the hostile "Skav" attacks.

The pair are supported in their efforts by mission commander Sally (Melisso Leo) who lives aboard the Tet - an orbital space station and the base of harvest operations. In two weeks time, the harvesters will have collected enough raw materials from Earth to ensure humanity's long-term survival - at which point Jack and Victoria are scheduled to join the other survivors on Titan (Saturn's largest moon). However, when a routine Drone repair raises new information about the Skavs, Jack begins to ask dangerous questions about his mission.

Andrea Riseborough as Victoria in 'Oblivion'

Oblivion was directed by sophomore feature-filmmaker Joseph Kosinski - based on a graphic novel treatment that he co-penned with comic book writer Arvid Nelson (Dark Horse Comics'  Rex Mundi ). Given his experience with  Tron: Legacy   (along with memorable commercials for Halo 3 and Gears of War ), Kosinski is no stranger to sprawling CGI worlds and slick futuristic tech - but from the opening scene, Oblivion sets out to tell a more contemplative story - one that can't simply be glossed over with memorable action beats. It's an intimidating and tricky balance to find - especially in a project that is so personal. By the time the credits roll, Kosinski was responsible for Oblivion 's creation, initial story, first screenplay adaptation, and directing.

Fortunately, with the help of screenwriters William Monahan ( The Departed ), Karl Gajdusek ( Dead Like Me ), and Michael Arndt ( Star Wars Episode 7 ), Oblivion also tells a captivating story - with interesting twists and entertaining (albeit brief) moments of humor and levity. Science fiction fans will be able to anticipate some of the plot beats ahead of schedule, but even in the cases where savvy moviegoers guess correctly, it rarely detracts from the intended emotional payoff.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Drone 166 in 'Oblivion'

In fact, Oblivion prioritizes its central character story over nearly every other element of the production - meaning that some moviegoers who were expecting a high-octane post-apocalyptic war story may be underwhelmed by the limited action set-pieces. The film includes a handful of exciting combat scenes - each with slick visual effects and enjoyable excitement - but relative to the character story and overall world-building, large scale action moments are in short supply. Instead, Oblivion unravels a multifaceted sci-fi mystery story - relying on tense character encounters and reveals to keep audiences engaged (even if plot holes and heavy-handed melodrama sometimes weigh it down).

Considering the relatively small cast, Cruise is responsible for a number of Oblivion 's best moments - gripping anxiety when fiddling with the finicky but lethal aerial drones, or a charming obsession when he encounters long-abandoned relics of humanity. Jack is a likable and contemplative lead character that fits within the usual Cruise wheelhouse, but even though he shares characteristics with Ethan Hunt ( Mission Impossible ) and John Anderton ( Minority Report ), the actor focuses on the right idiosyncrasies to serve Oblivion . Instead of adding another over-the-top action hero to his resume, Cruise is a bit more delicate with Jack - resulting in a more inviting and, at times, stirring performance.

Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in 'Oblivion'

The supporting cast is equally competent with a complicated and rich turn from Andrea Riseborough ( Never Let Me Go ) as Victoria, Jack's communications officer and sole-confidant. Whereas Jack is hesitant to leave humanity's "home" (Earth), Victoria is eager to reunite with the rest of the survivors on Titan - and watching her attempt to placate and manage her increasingly erratic partner provides Riseborough with plenty of material. Similarly, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, and Olga Kurylenko all offer meaningful additions to the onscreen Oblivion  drama - each with their own moments in the spotlight.

Kosinski also owes much of Oblivion 's success to the effects department - since they brought two of the more interesting "characters" to life: the previously mentioned aerial drones, and the drowned and frozen landscape of post-war New York City. The drones (number 166 in particular) walk a fascinating line between comedy relief and thoughtless killing machines - making them one of the most riveting and nerve-wracking aspects of the plot. Similarly, while New York City is effectively "dead," destroyed in the war, remnants of its former glory make for some of the more absorbing scenes in the film - and a constant reminder of the destruction wrought by the alien attack.

The post-apocalyptic skies of 'Oblivion'

Surprisingly, Oblivion was not post-converted into 3D but is getting a limited run in IMAX. In this case, the added IMAX cost is hard to justify - especially for moviegoers who expect significant return on a premium ticket experience. That said, for those who don't mind spending a few extra dollars, the IMAX experience could still be worthwhile. The bigger screen size enhances the scale in Oblivion 's post-apocalyptic settings and, more importantly, cranks up the sound. Honking and clunking mechanisms in the the drones and other high-tech vehicles help sell the authenticity of Kosinski's near-future world and a superior sound system is preferable (though, as stated, not essential).

Oblivion is not the most exciting or the smartest science fiction experience to ever hit theaters; action fans may be underwhelmed by a limited amount of gunplay, and viewers looking for an especially deep sci-fi world might find too many familiar tropes. Melodrama and predictable reveals keep the film from being the mind-bending creation that Kosinski may have envisioned, but the director still presents a captivating future with rich visuals and an intriguing protagonist.  Oblivion  could have easily been a convoluted and indulgent moviegoing experience; instead, the film keeps a restrained focus on Jack's character journey - which, thankfully, is an " effective team " of drama and post-apocalyptic adventure.

If you’re still on the fence about  Oblivion , check out the trailer below:

[poll id="581"]

Oblivion  runs 126 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity. Now playing in regular and IMAX theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our  Oblivion Spoilers Discussion .

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Oblivion  episode  of the  SR Underground podcast .

Follow me on Twitter @ benkendrick  for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

oblivion 2013 movie review

Produced and directed by Joseph Kosinski, Oblivion tells the story of Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a technician living in 2077, 60 years after scavenger aliens destroyed Earth's moon. While remaining on the abandoned Earth to repair drones, Jack encounters a sleep pod containing Julia, who has been in stasis since 2017. Finding her sees Jack embark on a journey to unlock the secrets of the past, all while fighting to save what remains of the Earth. 

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If only it were less easy to laugh at “Oblivion,” a lackluster science-fiction adventure with Tom Cruise that, even before its opening, was groaning under the weight of its hard-working, slowly fading star and a title that invites mockery of him and it both. The agony of being a longtime Tom Cruise fan has always been a burden, but now it’s just, well, dispiriting. You not only have to ignore the din of the tabloids and swat away the buzzing generated by his multiple headline-ready dramas, you also have to come to grips with the harsh truth that it no longer actually matters why and how Tom Terrific became less so. No one else much cares.

Mr. Cruise hasn’t made it easy. His screen presence has continued to grow ever-more self-serious, despite occasional attempts to lighten up, as in the recent would-be satire “Rock of Ages.” Midway through “Oblivion” I wondered when I had last believed there was something true in his laugh, something that felt either genuinely expansive or intimate, as in “Jerry Maguire,” or chilled with a hint of madness, as in “Magnolia.” Mind you, he doesn’t have many occasions to laugh in “Oblivion,” a gray post-apocalyptic tale with rainbow accents, yet when he does, it feels uncomfortably forced. In those moments, was he worrying that the movie wasn’t going to return him to the box office summit? He’s 50 years old and too young to be prepping for a slow fade, yet what are his choices?

Working with better directors — with filmmakers who know how to charm or force performances out of stars or perhaps say no to them — seems like a good place to start. “Oblivion” is only the second feature directed by Joseph Kosinski, after the 2010 release “Tron: Legacy.” That special effects-laden fantasy, a musty hero’s journey largely distinguished by the yawning divide between its poor quality and its $170 million price tag, was a flat line of a dud in almost every respect. It nonetheless made enough money to shore up an exploitable franchise property and spawn a sequel, and while this may not sound like much of an achievement, box office success or the perception of it can beget more opportunities in the movie business, which may help explain “Oblivion.”

oblivion 2013 movie review

Its story primarily unfolds in 2077, long after a cataclysmic war between earthlings and extraterrestrials. Nuked to all but radioactive ash, the Earth has been rendered nearly uninhabitable, and its remaining people have fled to a galactic shelter. The only ones left on the planet appear to be Jack Harper (Mr. Cruise) and his companion, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who live in a cantilevered aerie above the clouds that brings to mind a “Jetsons” sky pad. His job is to repair drones that patrol the facilities that extract resources for the surviving populace and that are under attack from the aliens, or Scavs, as in scavengers. She monitors him back at their place, waving her hands over a tabletop computer, while in full makeup and rocking some fabulous end-of-days-to-night dresses and heels.

The heels seem a strange choice given, you know, the whole doomsday thing, not to mention the glossiness of the couple’s floors. Then again, from the way she strips for some late-night nuzzling, her get-up does appear to have instrumental value, even if one misstep and she or at least an ankle would be a goner. A similar kind of tricky balancing act is inherent in science fiction, a genre that often employs recognizable details to tether readers and viewers in fantastical realms. It’s a form, as is often noted, that makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange, a narrative principle that Mr. Kosinski embraces again and again with niceties like Jack’s Yankee baseball cap and Jack and Victoria’s candlelight dinners.

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oblivion 2013 movie review

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Oblivion

Metacritic reviews

  • 70 The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy Oblivion is an absolutely gorgeous film dramatically caught between its aspirations for poetic romanticism and the demands of heavy sci-fi action. After a captivating beginning brimming with mystery and evident ambition, the air gradually seeps out of the balloon that keeps this thinly populated tale aloft, leaving the ultimate impression of a nice try that falls somewhat short of the mark.
  • 67 The Playlist Oliver Lyttelton The Playlist Oliver Lyttelton It is overlong, and familiar, and never quite hits top gear -- it's never especially bad, but neither is it especially excellent, beyond the visual wow factor. But there's still a lot to admire in the film, not least that it's engaging from the first moment to the last.
  • 63 McClatchy-Tribune News Service Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune News Service Roger Moore That doesn’t make Oblivion a bad movie, just a familiar one — generic.
  • 60 Empire Olly Richards Empire Olly Richards Kosinski has again built a fantasy world that feels real to its core, but once more put most effort into the scenery and too little into the people.
  • 60 Total Film Total Film It isn’t a reboot or reimagining, refreshingly, but Oblivion plays like a stylised remix of superior sci-fi ground-breakers. Cruise and Kosinski: they might be an effective team, but pioneers they’re not.
  • 60 Variety Justin Chang Variety Justin Chang A moderately clever dystopian mindbender with a gratifying human pulse, despite some questionable narrative developments along the way.
  • 60 Village Voice Alan Scherstuhl Village Voice Alan Scherstuhl The good news: Here's a lavish, serious science-fiction picture, one that on occasion transcends big-budget hit-making convention to glance against grandeur...Which brings us to Tom Cruise, the not-necessarily-good news. However engaging its end-times mysteries, Oblivion is still a Tom Cruise movie.
  • 58 Entertainment Weekly Entertainment Weekly Oblivion has enough special-effects artistry to keep you distracted for a while. But all the eye candy in the world can’t mask the sensation that you’ve seen this all before…and done better.
  • 40 Time Out Time Out Kosinski continues to lavish far more thought on how his elaborate fantasy worlds look than how they work, and neither the politics nor the human stakes here coalesce into rational or relatable drama.
  • 40 The Guardian Peter Bradshaw The Guardian Peter Bradshaw Oblivion goes on for a long time, moving slowly and self-consciously, and it looks like a very expensive movie project that has been written and rewritten many times over. It is a shame: Cruise, Riseborough and Kurylenko as the last love triangle left on Planet Earth should have been quite interesting.
  • See all 41 reviews on Metacritic.com
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Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

  • Dan Gunderman
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  • --> April 20, 2013

Oblivion (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

In pursuit or being pursued?

In choppy, frizzed, black and white video, Sally, a boisterous leader with a southern drawl asks, “Are you still an effective team?” Agreeably, the woman on the other end of the line, Victoria, responds with a nod and Sally labors forward with technical orders. But I too, can respond to this inquiry in agreement. Director Joseph Kosinski (“ TRON: Legacy ”), with Oblivion , has put together a clamorous, stimulating science fiction piece that keeps the viewer on seat edge for most of its 126 minute running time.

From the opening credits on, the production values of Oblivion leap out at you like a scouring deer in the headlights. Fortunately, like with the deer, disaster is averted and the film becomes the hippest blockbuster of the year thus far, maybe even since we saw Ridley Scott bring his A-game in “ Prometheus .” It also allows one to reclaim the admiration for Tom Cruise earned through roles in “ Top Gun ,” “ Rain Man ” and “ Eyes Wide Shut .”

2077: The contingent system is operating smoothly, and the Earth, ravaged by invasion and natural disaster, continues to be patrolled by Jack Harper (Cruise). He’s “Tech 49” whose duty is to patrol the last habitable grids of earth which have been left behind by a human race fleeing to a space station and Saturn’s largest moon. As his days wind down, and he completes maintenance on drones (which are the human race’s last “garrisons” and only protection against left-over alien invaders called “Scavs”) he heads home, thousands of feet in the air, where his partner and lover, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough, “ Welcome to the Punch ”) awaits his arrival.

Repeatedly, this cycle becomes Jack’s familiar routine; that is until a capsule comes crash-landing onto Earth, apparently drawn in from a Scav homing beacon. Investigating the scene, Jack finds that the ship contains human survivors. But as a drone approaches, he is befuddled as it soullessly executes the sleeping survivors. He manages to save one female in “delta sleep,” and coincidentally, she’s the same one Jack has seen over and over again in a distant, grey memory. He cannot pinpoint this flashback though, because six years earlier, the memories of Victoria and Jack had been wiped out, for security purposes. As he looks aghast at the strapping young woman, Julia (Olga Kurylenko, “ Seven Psychopaths ”), their time to become acquainted is cut short when the Scavs capture both her and Jack.

Tied up and bound to the middle of an underground facility, Jack soon finds out that what he’s come to know is not all that facile and legitimate. An underfoot leader, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman, “ Olympus has Fallen ”) pleads for Jack to venture towards the forbidden “radiation zone” to discover the truth. Is Jack’s disenchanted life more fallacy than fact? Is this Julia character really someone from his distant past? What will become of the pillaged planet?

Many of those answers are a bit abstract and actually challenging to answer, becoming a substantial distraction for the film’s overall intentions. However, both the CGI and Tom Cruise carry the weight of Oblivion on their backs, with both being quite effective. And although you’re left second-guessing yourself time and again as events unfold, it’s hard to condemn this film — it’s so damn visually appealing that it is very easy to overlook the farcical plot and its obvious lapses.

Oblivion (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

Searching for “scavs.”

In a loud, flashy display cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, and editor, Richard Francis-Bruce, really transport viewers to 2077, where they gauge the deforested, barren landscape and fly along with Cruise in his thruster-propelled ship. Even the moon cast in the distance, ravaged by alien destruction, is realistic looking, enthralling moviegoers and earning Miranda and Francis-Bruce a meritorious pat on the back, well done.

And while many Sci-Fi films tend to bring down your guard during belief suspension (this film being no different), the themes of Oblivion can be salvaged — even from depths of the soil-ridden remnants of New York City skyscrapers. The power of certain scientific capabilities and the millenniums-long idea of a god-complex is deliberated here. Do our seemingly-diminutive actions have serious repercussions for the Earth? Does playing the almighty gradually destruct an entire species? Kosinski’s screenplay at least tries to fly at drone-speed towards these answers.

So the only question remaining is: Do you hold high narrative standards for your films? Or are you fine with being a little confused as a story unfolds and admire a couple hours of visually-appealing, cutting-edge effects? If it’s the latter, grab your keys and go to the theater right now. Oblivion is, as Cruise says intermittently throughout the film, “Another day in Paradise.”

Tagged: aliens , comic book adaptation , Earth , future

The Critical Movie Critics

Dan is an author, film critic and media professional. He is a former staff writer for the N.Y. Daily News, where he served as a film/TV reviewer with a "Top Critic" designation on Rotten Tomatoes. His debut historical fiction novel, "Synod," was published by an independent press in Jan. 2018, receiving praise among indie book reviewers. His research interests include English, military and political history.

Movie Review: Six Minutes to Midnight (2020) Movie Review: Apocalypse ‘45 (2020) Movie Review: Greyhound (2020) Movie Review: Robert the Bruce (2019) Movie Review: 1917 (2019) Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Movie Review: Ad Astra (2019)

'Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)' have 18 comments

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 12:53 pm frommel

All great right up until the end.

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The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 1:01 pm Silix

I thought it was a decent sci-fi flick, at most. Felt like the boys behind it were relying too heavily on the “surprise” ending to validate it.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 1:10 pm Bogen

I’ve always though Cruise was a more than capable actor but his effort in Oblivion isn’t anything special nor is it enough for me to put aside his recent bizarre Scientological behaviors.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 1:38 pm Vincent Frost

For lack of a better adjective, I found it sterile. Unengaging. There is little meat on the bone to go along with the slick visuals. And it doesn’t help that Cruise is on cruise control, Freeman is a nonfactor and Kurylenko is Kurylenko.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 7:10 pm Poux

Neutered would be the word I use. The highs never get high enough

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 1:47 pm Chris

Warning to action fans: don’t expect big laser battle every 5 minutes. In fact, don’t expect any.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 2:14 pm Dan Gunderman

Also be on the look out for subtly strategic placements…Horatius, Charles Dickens…

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 2:29 pm _UrbanSprawl_

Minority Report remains TC’s sci-fi triumph.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 3:08 pm General Disdain

Good review, Dan. You liked the movie more than I did – I was thinking it maybe earned a 3/5. Tom Cruise played the same generic character he’s been playing for the past ten years and for me the final payoff was a big, fat disappointment.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 4:46 pm AstroCamper

“Moon”-like.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 8:39 pm Gothica

“Matrix”-like.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 5:14 pm constitutionist

Am I looking too deeply into this or are the themes in this analogous to the current military use of drones?

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 7:54 pm Nancy

Why is it aliens always have a ridiculously easy weakness to exploit? Just once I’d like to see some ingenuity in the way an overthrow is handled.

The Critical Movie Critics

April 20, 2013 @ 11:27 pm footlong

The aliens in Signs had a ridiculously easy weakness to exploit. The aliens in this don’t exactly suffer from a weakness, bad judgement perhaps but that comes with delusions of infallibility …

The Critical Movie Critics

April 21, 2013 @ 11:30 am Preston

Not that I’m a big supporter of it but Oblivion is one movie that may have popped further in the 3rd dimension.

April 23, 2013 @ 3:34 am Dan Gunderman

With the disappointing payoff, I agree, its even hard to grasp the plot for a bit, but I just think I’ve seen a lot worse (& the really neat cinematography adds a star)

April 23, 2013 @ 3:35 am Dan Gunderman

The vulnerable aliens are a bit cliche, but that’s a whole other issue with Hollywood in itself ya know…

The Critical Movie Critics

April 29, 2013 @ 11:27 am jack riley

People—please stop sugarcoating it TC is a terrible actor who is one dimentional and only keeps working because he produces his own films–

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Tom Cruise's Latest Headed For 'Oblivion'

David Edelstein

Joseph Kosinski's sci-fi adventure, starring Tom Cruise, is the most incoherent piece of storytelling since John Travolta's Battlefield Earth. It had critic David Edelstein crying, "What? What? " over the din of the explosions.

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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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oblivion 2013 movie review

Stylized sci-fi entertains; expect deaths, sexy stuff.

Oblivion Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Somewhat grim circumstances, but the movie highlig

Jack is curious and questions the motives of missi

The drones kill -- instantly incinerating anyone o

Jack is "assigned" to Victoria both roma

For most of the movie, language isn't very fre

Despite the future setting, there are references t

Jack and Victoria drink with dinner. A character s

Parents need to know that Oblivion is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that deals with the survival of humanity and a mysterious, violent alien threat. There are drones that kill instantly and turn their victims into ashes; several people die, including a few major characters. The language is pretty tame…

Positive Messages

Somewhat grim circumstances, but the movie highlights the way that humans manage to survive under the most difficult circumstances. Challenges people to listen to their instincts, to question following instructions and commands blindly, and to pay attention to their dreams. Also promotes the idea of taking care of the resources that we have -- and to not take them for granted.

Positive Role Models

Jack is curious and questions the motives of mission control. He's willing to think beyond authoritative directives and do what's best for humanity, even though it's against his orders. He's willing to save someone even after he discovers that she's not who he thought she was. Victoria is dedicated to her work, but she's unwilling to second guess any of her instructions, and she allows jealousy to cloud her instincts. Julia is patient and courageous. Beech is self sacrificing.

Violence & Scariness

The drones kill -- instantly incinerating anyone or anything they're programmed to terminate. Several characters die or are injured (including some major characters), but it's not a bloodbath like War of the Worlds . Explosions, hand-to-hand fights, and lots of danger/peril.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Jack is "assigned" to Victoria both romantically and professionally. They shower together, sleep together, kiss several times, and, in one scene, Victoria seduces Jack by undressing (she's shown nude from the back), jumping into a pool and suggestively inviting him to join her. They're shown kissing passionately (he with his shirt off, she naked, with back and legs visible) underwater. Later, another couple kisses; it's implied that they make love, but nothing is shown.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

For most of the movie, language isn't very frequent (though what is heard includes "s--t," "damn," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," and "bitch"), but at the very end, there's one memorable use of "f--k."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

Despite the future setting, there are references to the New York Yankees and bands/songs such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jack and Victoria drink with dinner. A character smokes a cigar.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Oblivion is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that deals with the survival of humanity and a mysterious, violent alien threat. There are drones that kill instantly and turn their victims into ashes; several people die, including a few major characters. The language is pretty tame except for an occasional "s--t" and "damn" -- and one particularly memorable "f--k you." Sexuality includes a few passionate kisses and one seduction scene in which a woman is shown naked from the back. Oblivion is likely to appeal most to families with older teens who are either Tom Cruise fans or partial to futuristic action flicks. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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oblivion 2013 movie review

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  • Parents say (13)
  • Kids say (48)

Based on 13 parent reviews

A woman is 'assigned' to a man- of course she is shown naked.

What's the story.

In the year 2077, humans no longer live on Earth but instead reside on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Left behind are Jack ( Tom Cruise ) and Victoria ( Andrea Riseborough ), a clean-up crew of sorts who are tasked with repairing drones before they, too, can join the rest of the surviving population on Titan. But Jack's mission changes when he rescues NASA astronaut Julia ( Olga Kurylenko ) from her ship's crash. It's clear that Jack may not have the complete truth -- and that the alien "Scavengers" roaming the Earth may not be the threat that Jack and Victoria have been warned about. After meeting the head of the Scavs, Jack must decide whether he's going to follow the mission's assignment or to believe strangers he feels inexplicably compelled to trust.

Is It Any Good?

Director Joseph Kosinski does a better job with OBLIVION than he did with his debut film, Tron: Legacy , but it's clear he's a filmmaker whose strength is stylized, visually arresting storytelling. The cinematography is terrific, with sweeping landscapes of post-apocalyptic New York, and the action sequences are pulse-pounding thanks to Cruise's mastery of the genre. Cruise manages to have decent chemistry with not one but two women -- the prim rules-follower played by Riseborough and the enigmatic woman of Jack's dreams, Kurylenko. It takes an extraordinary leading man to pull that kind of emotional connection off, and Cruise is up to the task.

One of the best moments in Oblivion is when viewers first hear co-star Morgan Freeman 's powerful voice before the lights turn on and his face is revealed. Few actors can exude Freeman's gravitas with such few words. Game of Thrones fans will also be pleased to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau make an appearance. But in the end, this is a Cruise film all the way. How entertaining you consider the movie depends greatly on how good of an action star you consider him, because the third act does border on the overlong and unsatisfying. Still, despite its subpar story resolution, Oblivion is good enough to remember.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the popularity of post-apocalyptic stories. How does Oblivion compare to other alien movies like The Host or Prometheus ?

How does the violence in the movie compare to other sci-fi/action movies you've seen? Does the fact that some of the combatants are aliens give it any more/less impact?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : April 19, 2013
  • On DVD or streaming : August 6, 2013
  • Cast : Morgan Freeman , Olga Kurylenko , Tom Cruise
  • Director : Joseph Kosinski
  • Inclusion Information : Black actors, Female actors
  • Studio : Universal Studios
  • Genre : Science Fiction
  • Topics : Adventures , Space and Aliens
  • Run time : 126 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity
  • Last updated : December 6, 2023

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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Flickering Myth

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Movie Review – Oblivion (2013)

April 10, 2013 by admin

Oblivion , 2013.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo and Zoe Bell.

A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.

Why do we go to the cinema? Why do we choose to pay money to sit in the darkened room and watch a film on a giant screen? Sometimes we want to see a cinematic take on a familiar story, but more often we want be transported to a world which can only exist on that screen; we want the escape from our reality and, even for those few hours, forget anything else in our world and let the film makers show us theirs.

Oblivion is such a film. It is a triumph of big budget, state of the art film making where story and spectacle are equally balanced and the result is something which can stand on its own, where so many others blend into one.

This review’s purpose is not to re-tell the plot and spoil the twists and turns which help keep us intrigued from the very first shot (literally so, with the film’s unique addition to the Universal logo) but the synopsis is this: 60 years after a war between Earth and alien invaders, Earth has been left desolated despite winning the war. Tom Cruise stars as Jack Harper, one of the few men left between Earth and the Tet, a craft which will soon be used to take what’s left of humanity to a new life one of Saturn’s moons. Needless to say, several complications occur and Jack’s plans will be changed forever.

The above is merely the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ of Oblivion’s story; a story which started in the mind of its writer/director Joseph Kosinski several years ago. Kosinski, making only his second film here, scored a box office hit in 2010 with Tron: Legacy but Oblivion is his creation through and through and the love of his concept is clear in every frame of his film. In a year which is yet again filled with comic book adaptations, sequels, and popular novel adaptations, Oblivion is something of a rarity. Universal Pictures are, despite the globally pulling power of Tom Cruise and the general appeal of sci-fi, taking a risk with this $140 million production. It’s that rarest of things; an original idea with no previously established fan base.

Tom Cruise is attracted to screenplays which are character-driven, even if they cost $100 million or more, and Oblivion delivers a story which mystifies from beginning to end, never spoon-feeding the plot to its audience. We know the same truth as Jack does every step of the way; when his world gets rocked, so does our. This isn’t the usual BANG BOOM SMASH CRASH BOOM mindless summer farce we’re usually subjected to, where the sight of CGI characters fighting passes for entertainment; Oblivion spends its first hour exploring the desolated landscape and watching Jack go about his daily work of fixing drones. To Jack, this is just normal life, but Kosinski’s screenplay allows the audience to experience these process for the first time alongside the characters and experience the world created here.

We never see the destruction of Earth with skyscrapers crumbling whilst people scream and point because that’s not what Oblivion is about. It’s not about destruction and chaos but rather the continuation of life and the restoration of humanity. Moreover, the film, for the first hour, is relatively action free, but never for one moment dull or boring. When the action comes, it’s spectacular but crucially, it doesn’t drag on and fill minutes of screen time to pander to the under fifteen’s in the audience. It’s a wonder the studio didn’t push for a 3D retrofitted version for the cinema release, but Oblivion’s stunning visuals allow for more depth and texture than any 3D film could hope to achieve. If all films could be made with this vision and look as good as this, 3D should be redundant.

Like all good films, the true enjoyment comes not from the set-pieces alone but from the story which allows the set-pieces to function within it. The two must work in unison, and they do thanks to Kosinski for not a shaky camera or slow motion shot is in sight. He is a director who is in total control of his picture, not the opposite way around, and the action benefits because of it.

Shot on Sony’s CineAlta F65 4K camera, the film looks pristine throughout and the design of Jack’s home above the clouds is a set which you wish you could visit just to appreciate all the detail which went into its creation, and equally as impressive are the spacecrafts he flies and the suits he wears. The concepts on display here are far beyond ‘looking cool’ and make for a believable and lived-in reality for these characters. Again, the balance between story and spectacle is stuck.

Oblivion doesn’t just benefit from being seen on the biggest screen possible, it demands it. This is a must for the IMAX experience for the combination of picture and sound is sensational throughout. Simply put, Oblivion should be considered the post- Inception benchmark for original big-budget movies.

Flickering Myth Rating  – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Rohan Morbey  – follow me on  Twitter .

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oblivion 2013 movie review

‘Oblivion’ (2013) Movie Review

By Brad Brevet

If you’re a filmmaker and you’re looking for a way to take an audience out of a movie immediately, start it off with a lengthy voice over diatribe, filling our heads with more information we care to process with details we aren’t even sure what is valuable and what can be forgotten. Certainly the goal is to take it all in, but at what point am I supposed to be in awe of the destruction of the Earth’s moon? Or process the resulting devastation, not to mention the news a nuclear war left our planet virtually uninhabitable?

What was that you said about mankind escaping earth and now living one of Saturn’s moons? And those big machines are sucking water out of the Earth’s ocean for some form of fusion energy? And drones are protecting the machines from “Scavs”? And Scavs are members of the alien force that invaded Earth in 2017, which lead to all this destruction? Do I have this correct?

Such are the opening minutes of Joseph Kosinski ‘s Oblivion , his new sci-fi film serving as a follow-up to the visually impressive, but ultimately lacking, TRON: Legacy . Again Kosinski displays a strong visual eye just as he did with Tron , and despite my narrative setup complaints with the convoluted opening, this is a much better film than Tron ever dreamed of being. Yet, it doesn’t amount to much, despite what appears to be grand ambitions.

Once the table is set we’re introduced to Jack Harper ( Tom Cruise ), a drone maintenance engineer who, along with Victoria ( Andrea Riseborough ), is one of the two last remaining humans on Earth (or so we’re told). Their job is to ensure the drones protect the reactors sucking the ocean dry from the “Scavs” and in two weeks they’re scheduled to join the rest of humanity. Of course, things are about to change and truths are about to come to light.

The biggest issue Oblivion faces is that it believes it is smarter than it really is as it doesn’t take much to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The film seems to work against itself, by giving away too many details at the outset and then clouding its own vision with redundancies and needless flashback sequences that are made to seem important when all they really do is reiterate what we already know — even before we’re supposed to know it.

For as much as this sounds like complaining, it’s actually a level of frustration, because there is still a lot to like about Oblivion , a film I wholly recommend seeing on the biggest screen possible with the most impressive sound system you can find.

My screening was in the smaller IMAX format with DLP audio and M83’s score adds just as much to this film as Daft Punk’s did to TRON: Legacy and to go with that, if this film isn’t in the running for a visual effects nomination there better be five amazing films ahead of it. Additionally, I’m almost ready to say Ren Klyce can walk away with the Oscar right now for his sound design. Nominated five times before, for his work on four David Fincher films, Klyce gives hovering orbs with guns something of an emotional core. His work here is on par with what Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood achieved with WALL•E as he created bots that could seem like protectors in one instance and angered death machines the next. I loved it.

Like Prometheus , Kosinski decided to use the stark landscape of Iceland for his setting and just as much as it gave Prometheus an alien appearance, it works to this film’s advantage as well, particularly when the story takes our heroes into conflicting environments such as desert landscapes and quiet wooded areas.

I’ve heard people offer up both sides of the argument when it comes to Cruise, some saying he’s a highlight, others saying he’s a detriment. Personally I found he served his purpose, but as a Cruise fan I’m simply happy to see anything he’s in, though I’m sure a lesser known face may have served this story a little better.

When it comes to performances, however, if the goal was to have me despise Melissa Leo as the monotone Sally then job well done. Olga Kurylenko , Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau add very little to the end product while Riseborough is likely to enjoy most of the kudos as she is asked to deliver more than any other character in the film on an emotional level. In fact, her character is sadly under-explored and could have almost been at the heart of the story much more than Cruise’s Jack.

Oblivion is a visual treat for audiences feeling the need for something “big”, but for the audiences hoping it’s a sci-fi film for the ages they’ll be disappointed. While you’ll find traces of many science fiction classics in the running time of Oblivion the story just doesn’t amount to the ambition of its visuals and the twists and turns in the narrative may be more likely to result in laughter from some audience members rather than the awe Kosinski certainly would prefer.

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oblivion 2013 movie review

Oblivion (2013)

Dove review.

“Oblivion” takes place decades after a war between aliens and earthlings. Even though the earthlings won the war, they are forced to leave earth due to radiation and the severe destruction of the planet’s resources. A small team is left behind to clean things up and gather the remaining resources before their departure.

The action in the film is relatively tame by today’s standards. While exciting chase and battle sequences do exist, there is little blood. However, there are a couple of violent scenes that are slightly above our approval rating. In addition, the language is completely inappropriate and the near nudity is out of place. Its too bad that the filmmakers chose to pepper their movie with these unnecessary elements which serve to do nothing but distract the audience from an otherwise unique and interesting story. Due to the objectionable content, we cannot award a “Family-Approved” Seal to this film.

Dove Rating Details

Drone robots kill multiple humans by completely obliviating them with little blood but chunks of charred pieces flying apart; chase sequences with drones and manned aircraft; explosions; man fights hand to hand with another; woman shot in side with blood.

Unmarried man and woman sleep together; implied sex between unmarried man and woman.

F-1; GD-3; S-4; BS-1; H-5; D-1; SOB-3

Man smokes a cigar.

Rear female nudity; male nudity from waist up.

Woman throws up on-screen.

More Information

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COMMENTS

  1. Oblivion movie review & film summary (2013)

    If nothing else, "Oblivion" will go down in film history as the movie where Tom Cruise pilots a white, sperm-shaped craft into a giant space uterus. The scene is more interesting to describe than it is to watch. Cruise's sperm-ship enters through an airlock that resembles a geometrized vulva. He arrives inside a massive chamber lined with egg-like glass bubbles. At the center of the chamber is ...

  2. Oblivion (2013)

    Oblivion. PG-13 Released Apr 19, 2013 2h 15m Sci-Fi Adventure Action. List. 54% Tomatometer 259 Reviews. 61% Audience Score 100,000+ Ratings. In the year 2077, Jack Harper works as a security ...

  3. Oblivion

    Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 | Jun 9, 2022. Don Shanahan Every Movie Has a Lesson. Filled with amazing post-apocalyptic spectacle, dazzling action sequences, and a heady story of twists and ...

  4. Oblivion (2013)

    Oblivion: Directed by Joseph Kosinski. With Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough. A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.

  5. Oblivion (2013)

    8/10. A memorable sci-fi fantasy world with a human heart at its core. mwburrows 11 April 2013. If there is a soul, it is made from the love we share. There are many ways to describe Oblivion, but the softly spoken afterword by Tom Cruise's character really makes you feel the human heartbeat of this sci-fi epic.

  6. 'Oblivion' review: a post-apocalyptic beauty that succeeds even while

    2013 is shaping up to be the year of the high-end science fiction movie. With the likes of Will Smith and Matt Damon starring in new genre films, and some major blockbusters from J.J. Abrams and G...

  7. Oblivion

    Mixed or Average Based on 41 Critic Reviews. 54. 44% Positive 18 Reviews. 51% Mixed 21 Reviews. 5% Negative 2 Reviews. All Reviews; ... 2013 Oblivion is an absolutely gorgeous film dramatically caught between its aspirations for poetic romanticism and the demands of heavy sci-fi action. After a captivating beginning brimming with mystery and ...

  8. Film Review: 'Oblivion'

    Apr 10, 2013 8:41am PT Film Review: 'Oblivion' A moderately clever dystopian mindbender with a gratifying human pulse, despite some questionable narrative developments along the way.

  9. Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman: 'Oblivion' Film Review

    Oblivion: Film Review. Universal's sci-fi thriller, from "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski, opens April 19.

  10. Oblivion Movie Review

    Oblivion Movie Review. By. Chris Nashawaty. Chris Nashawaty. Senior Writer. EW's editorial guidelines. Published on May 1, 2013. Stylishly directed by Tron: Legacy?s Joseph Kosinski, ...

  11. Oblivion Review

    Verdict. While a noble effort in terms of scale and ambition, Oblivion entertains only sporadically. There's a great film somewhere in there, but this isn't it. Apr 10, 2013. Tom Cruise ...

  12. 'Oblivion' Review

    Oblivion is not the most exciting or the smartest science fiction experience to ever hit theaters; action fans may be underwhelmed by a limited amount of gunplay, and viewers looking for an especially deep sci-fi world might find too many familiar tropes. Melodrama and predictable reveals keep the film from being the mind-bending creation that ...

  13. 'Oblivion,' With Tom Cruise

    Oblivion. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Action, Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi. PG-13. 2h 4m. By Manohla Dargis. April 18, 2013. If only it were less easy to laugh at "Oblivion," a lackluster ...

  14. Movie Review

    00:00. 00:00. Credit: Universal Pictures. The score for Oblivion was composed by M83, a superb French electronic outfit that derives its name from one of the spectral pinwheels known as spiral ...

  15. Oblivion (2013)

    Total Film. It isn't a reboot or reimagining, refreshingly, but Oblivion plays like a stylised remix of superior sci-fi ground-breakers. Cruise and Kosinski: they might be an effective team, but pioneers they're not. 60. Variety Justin Chang. A moderately clever dystopian mindbender with a gratifying human pulse, despite some questionable ...

  16. Oblivion (2013 film)

    Oblivion is a 2013 American post-apocalyptic action-adventure film produced and directed by Joseph Kosinski from a screenplay by Karl Gajdusek and Michael deBruyn, starring Tom Cruise in the main role alongside Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Melissa Leo in supporting roles. Based on Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel of the same name, the film ...

  17. Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

    'Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)' have 18 comments. April 20, 2013 @ 12:53 pm frommel. All great right up until the end. April 20, 2013 @ 1:01 pm Silix. I thought it was a decent sci-fi flick, at most. Felt like the boys behind it were relying too heavily on the "surprise" ending to validate it.

  18. Movie Review

    "Oblivion" is based on a graphic novel co-written by Joseph Kosinski, who went on to direct the film, and it costars Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

  19. Oblivion Movie Review

    What you will—and won't—find in this movie. Positive Messages. Somewhat grim circumstances, but the movie highlig. Positive Role Models. Jack is curious and questions the motives of missi. Violence & Scariness. The drones kill -- instantly incinerating anyone o. Sex, Romance & Nudity. Jack is "assigned" to Victoria both roma.

  20. Movie Review

    Oblivion, 2013. Directed by Joseph Kosinski.Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo and Zoe Bell. SYNOPSIS: A veteran assigned ...

  21. 'Oblivion' (2013) Movie Review

    Movie review for Oblivion, the new sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise and one that is visually amazing, but for as grand as it wants to be it doesn't amount to much. ... April 18, 2013.

  22. Oblivion (2013)

    Tom Cruise stars in Oblivion, an original and groundbreaking cinematic event from the director of TRON: Legacy and the producer of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. On a spectacular future Earth that has evolved beyond recognition, one man's confrontation with the past will lead him on a journey of redemption and discovery as he battles to save mankind. Jack Harper (Cruise) is one of the last ...

  23. Oblivion (2013)

    Oblivion - Movie review by film critic Tim Brayton. Cast : Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko Screenplay : Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt Release : April 10, 2013 Director : Joseph Kosinski Genre : Action, Science Fiction, Adventure, Mystery Country : USA Stream Now Tim's Rating : Bang for your Buck :