Production design is one of the stars of Oblivion. It creates a landscape and some minimal interiors that are fascinating to inhabit for two hours. The script makes something of a slow start but progresses to the delivery of four jolting surprises. Withholding the surprises makes it a difficult film to discuss. I offer a SPOILER ALERT as I reveal one of the four, in part to have something to write about: My own inclination would have been to cast an unknown in the role he plays rather than give it to someone as familiar as Morgan Freeman. He is, of course excellent; and his color does give his leadership role — if only briefly — an intriguing subtext.
Cruise, overall, is very good, playing a science engineer among the handful of humans left on our self-nuked planet. But there are moments, usually it seems at the beginning of a scene or sequence of shots, when his facial expression seems caught unawares. I blame the director and/or the editor for some of these incidences and blame the remainder of them on what appears a growing Cruise tendency — at intense moments of concentration — to be momentarily Gregory Peck: that sage, supposedly profound look accompanied by a just noticeable nod of the head, indicating unfathomable thoughts or emotions. But throughout most of the running time Cruise is entirely believable and often pleasingly subtle.
I found allusions to 2001, Star Wars, Star Trek – the Motion Picture, Cruise’s Mission Impossibles and The Wizard of Oz. Allusions? Or influences? Influences or imitations? Comments from my readers?
Oblivion is a good entertainment, a fine visual success and a good vehicle for one of the modern era’s great stars.
from the graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski
production design, Darren Gilford
art direction, Kevin Ishioka and Mark W. Mansbridge
set decoration, Ronald R. Reiss
photography, Claudio Miranda
music, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese
* * * * * * * * * * *
MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE: One more dip into Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls: Robert Jordan is fantasizing three days in Madrid with Maria. “Three days could be a long time. He’d take her to see the Marx Brothers at the Opera. That had been running for three months now. She’d like the Marx Brothers at the Opera, he thought. She’d like that very much.” (Scribner, 1940)
NEXT FRIDAY POST on FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 6
See you at the movies,