Movie Review: Oblivion (2013) – Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman

Okay, so I was totally surprised by Oblivion. I was originally planning on not watching it, bucketing it in the same category as After Earth – the sci-fi movies whose interviews prove that (provided they’re not completely taken out of context), Will and Jaden Smith have slipped their ratchets and gone cuckoo.


And then I did watch it, at my (way smarter than me, naturally) wife’s insistence.

I’m massively glad that I did. Reasons why?

Sound Design

The sound design in this movie is awesome. Absolutely awesome. Yep, I’m going to put that right out there. Sound design is something I don’t normally gush over – it’s something that a lot of the time I rarely notice. I’ll always call out good acting, good editing, good writing, great direction… but for the most part, great sound design is invisible.

The sound design in this movie? It’s certainly not invisible – and it’s just frankly utterly fantastic. It’s by Ren Klyce, who usually works with David Fincher (he did the sound design on Fight Club). I’m still wracking my brain trying to figure out how he created those gleeks, bleeps and klaxon noises. (They’re mostly pure tones – they have texture to them though).

There’s pig-squeals in the sounds of some of the drones when they get hit too if you look for it.


Set/Prop Design

Absolutely gorgeous. Apparently a conscious nod to the Tron: Legacy sets that Kosinski and Miranda worked on before – except they wanted everything to really truly be made of reflective surfaces this time. The ships are great. The drones are fantastic. Just awesome.



It’s a very tight script - no filler, no padding. It’s post-apocalyptic, which frankly I’m a total sucker for. I always love a good post-apocalyptic movie. Well, nearly always. (A Boy and His Dog was rough going). This was written by the director as a graphic novel and sold as a one-shot at San Diego Comicon originally. Since then, other writers have had their way with it… but it’s pretty clear that the guy directing the movie has a handle on the material.

There were only a couple of moments where I felt it was a bit off. You will be wondering what the hell I'm thinking by saying that, if you’re really paying attention. You’ll be thinking I’ve lost the plot, and some of this is clumsy writing. That is, until the second half of the movie. I promise. So pay attention, and get all nit-picky. It pays off.

There were a couple of twee moments though. But just tiny twee moments. It’s forgiveable.

The soundtrack

This movie has a fantastic orchestral/synth soundtrack with shades of Tron: Legacy and also a distinct 80’s vibe. I’m almost willing to say that it borrows a little from Tangerine Dream – namely, their soundtrack to Legend… but firmly in the sci-fi vein. M.83 is your man here.

Solid cinematography

The cinematography here is great. Claudio Miranda pulls his punches in a couple of shots where it doesn’t quite mesh 100% with the FX (the end of the shot lining up on the 1/3rds a little too well when the subject of the shot is moving wildly), but that could just as easily be Kosinski. On the whole though? Solid as granite.

Fantastic FX work

Zero-Gee scenes were eminently believable. Flying scenes? NICE physicality – incredibly well grounded, with the same attention to detail as was paid on the Zero-G. It’s all nice and believably visceral – particularly when he flies through some rain. Battle scenes? Have to be seen to be believed – particularly the particle/ash/smoke effects as enemies are eviscerated. Oh. My God. That was gorgeous and brutal.


Yeah, just give up now and watch it. Give in! Give in I tell you! It'll tide you over until Gravity comes out later this year!!! I’ll give it a 9/10.

Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear… it’s the guy who directed Tron: Legacy who wrote and directed this movie. Yeah, just give in. Go watch the damn thing already!

Bonus Feature: Movie References

Play spot-the-homage to Tom Cruise in this movie. I think I spotted at least 5 Tom Cruise movie references – specifically, Top Gun, Vanilla Sky, Cocktail, Legend, Minority Report. See if you agree.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

facebook comments