Mission: Accomplished


The more you learn about “Oblivion,” the more there is to be excited about. While the sci-fi thriller is only Joseph Kosinski’s second big-screen movie, it’s a sci-fi movie that isn’t a prequel, sequel, remake or movie version of an old TV show. Much like “TRON: Legacy” (Kosinski’s debut film), “Oblivion” is saturated with visual beauty, equipped with a pulse-pounding score and adorned with action sequences in the form of fight scenes and vehicular battles. 

“I wanted it to be desolate but beautiful,” Director Joseph Kosinski said. 

The plot sometimes collapses in on itself and ends up riddled with questions, but it twists and turns too fast for the regular viewer to notice or care. In a Skype interview with the Guardian and several other publications, lead actor Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski discuss creating the world of “Oblivion” and reveal that they have become close.

“I am always interested in things that are different, and Joe is just so great at making a story,” Cruise said, explaining what about “Oblivion” piqued his interest.  

After winning a war with aliens, humans have evacuated the ravaged Earth to a giant spaceship called Tet. That is, all humans but two. Cruise plays Jack Harper who lives with girlfriend and partner Vika (Andrea Riseborough) in a futuristic house, perched high above the terrarian wasteland. While Vika stays in the safe confines of the luxury box and communicates with Command, Jack goes out to repair damaged drones that patrol the earth, eliminating any remaining aliens known as “Scavs.” Despite its ruined state, the repairman feels an attachment to Earth. On his outings, Jack often picks up things he finds including books, records and a Yankees hat. He assembles these objects as memorabilia of a time he knows only from fragments and enigmatic dreams after having his memory wiped. 

Jack’s sentimentality is contrasted by the coldness of the drones he repairs. He returns home covered in dirt and dust to an ultra clean, white and gray, minimalist home complete with a complacent girlfriend. If the stark contrast between the protagonist and his world had been just a bit more pungent, it would have been unbearable. But Cruise’s performance saves the character. 

In an unusual move, Cruise actually reached out to Kosinski to be a part of the film after some artwork caught the actor’s eye at comic-con. With Cruise in, Kosinski’s team now had to set about producing an actual script. 

“Tom already suited the character…it was not much work [to write a part for him],” Kosinski said. 

As the two laugh and joke with each other, they come off as old buddies. Cruise expressed that it was a hugely collaborative effort working with Kosinski. 

“To prepare for the role, I just spent a lot of time with Joe [Kosinski],” Cruise said. 

Kosinski also spoke excitedly about the opportunity to work with Cruise. 

“He has worked with all my heroes: Kubrick, Ridley Scott and Scorsese,” he said.

It seems as if Kosinski tried to recreate some of the sci-fi magic like that of his heroes. He indeed churned out an enjoyable original — the likes of which have become a rare breed in Hollywood. 

“Much like the Western, the sci-fi creates a story,” Cruise said in response to why he made a science fiction movie.

“It has a little of everything. It has action. It has a lot of emotion. It has romance to it. So it has everything. Also, I wanted to bring sci-fi out of the dark.” Kosinski said about his new film.

Much like classic sci-fi movie makers, Kosinski also favored his characters exercising elaborate plots over logical reasoning because it allowed for cooler effects and trippier plot twists, which speaks to the original intent of film — to entertain. Further, the lack of answers reflects the state of the characters. In other words, we only know as much as they know, making them even more relatable. “Oblivion” also maintains a steady stream of action.

If you watch “Oblivion” again, all your focus would be locked in on the “bubbleship” as it glides fluidly in and out of danger in all its bulbous glory; or maybe you’ll sit on the edge of your seat as Jack finds himself in one precarious situation after another and uses only his wits and inexplicable flexibility to overcome them.

“In the most painful scene,” Cruise laughed, “I felt my neck bend in this certain way.”

“When you watch the playback, you can actually see his neck bend in this unnatural way, and we were like, ‘Are you okay?’” Kosinski said. 

Viewers can rest easy (there were no serious injuries to speak of), sit back and watch “Oblivion,” as well as enjoy its score, composed by none other than M83. 

“I was actually listening to an early M83 album while writing the original [graphic] novel,” Kosinski said. 

At first the music of the film is characterized by deep swells and resonating bass, much like “TRON: Legacy.” But later the speed and tempo picks up and the unique sounds of M83 come out and make the score listenable on its own.

It does not feel right to label Kosinski as a novice though that is essentially what he is. From “Oblivion,” Kosinski has proven three things. 1) He’s doing pretty well for a novice. 2) He is a mast imaginer of worlds. And 3) He has great taste in music.

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