Oblivion – Blu-ray Review

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Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion has been talked about as a film ever since Tron: Legacy has been released. First, it was a pitched as a graphic novel that never really became a graphic novel. Next, it was picked up by Disney and then dropped by Disney after the less-than-stellar box office numbers of Tron: Legacy — although Disney cites that it’s because of its non-family friendly content that they dropped Oblivion. Needless to say, the production of the film has gone through its share of ups and downs. Not a good sign for the second time feature film director.

With Oblivion, Kosinski has a chance to show just how much of a capable director he is, as the main (not mine) negative criticism of Tron: Legacy was the script itself. With Oblivion being Kosinski’s own story, does the film show that Kosinski is much more than a director with an eye for slick visuals, or does he deliver another film with tons of slick visuals and no substance?

Overall, Oblivion benefits from a much more focused storyline than Tron: Legacy and a strong character performance from Tom Cruise. Screenwriters William Monahan (The Departed), Karl Gajdusek (ABC’s Last Resort), and Michael Arndt (Star Wars: Episode VII) tell a fascinating story complete with interesting twists and moments of humor. In fact, the screenwriters have put more emphasis on the central character story than the action sequences, so those who were expecting a high-octane post-apocalyptic sci-fi film might be disappointed by the limited action set pieces. Those who are prepared for that or can look past that will enjoy this film.

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In Oblivion, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is part of a two-person crew tasked with protecting Earth’s remaining resources following a catastrophic alien invasion that left Earth ruined. Along with his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), Jack supervises and repairs a dangerous army of drones. The drones’ mission is to protect these gigantic resource harvesters from hostile alien attacks.

The duo is supported by their mission commander Sally (Melissa Leo) who lives aboard the Tet — an orbital space station and the main base of operations for the crew. In two weeks, Jack and Victoria’s mission will be complete, and at that time are scheduled to join the other human survivors on Titan. However, when a routine Drone repair raises new information about the aliens, Jack begins to ask daring questions about his mission.

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Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise is the one of the main reason I enjoyed Oblivion. Jack is a likable and thoughtful lead character, and even though he shares characteristics with many of his other characters (Ethan Hunt, John Anderton, Nathan Algren, etc), Cruise focuses on the right characteristics when playing Jack here. Instead of adding another action hero to his filmography, Cruise is a bit subtler with Jack, resulting in a more inviting and inspired performance.

Another element that worked in Oblivion was the chemistry between Tom Cruise and the beautiful Andrea Riseborough, Jack’s communications officer and sole-confidant. Although the true love interest for Jack is Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the chemistry between Cruise and Riseborough felt more meaningful, while the relationship between Cruise and Kurylenko felt forced at times. Regardless, Kurylenko and the rest of the supporting cast — Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Melissa Leo — all offer meaningful additions to the onscreen drama, each with their own moments in the spotlight.

While Oblivion is not the most exciting or the smartest sci-fi experience that Kosinski may have envisioned, the film still presents a captivating future with rich visuals and an intriguing protagonist. Oblivion could have easily been a convoluted film, but thankfully, the film keeps a controlled focus on Jack’s journey and at the same time is able to keep the signature Kosinski style visuals to keep not only your eyes entertained but yourself as well.

Movie grade: B

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Video

The 1080p high definition AVC video is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This is probably one of the cleanest transfers I’ve seen for a Blu-ray release since I last reviewed Tai Chi Zero. The contrast is very good, as not one scene looks flat or dull. The blacks on here are perfect. Even though the film is bright overall, the blacks here are perfect, as is evident in the underground library scene. There weren’t any crushed blacks at all from what I could see. The details in the movie are so nicely defined, that you can see the threads in the costumes. Although the film is light on the color palette, the colors are nice, clean, most importantly do no bleed onto each other. So rest easy as Kosinski’s visual style isn’t hampered at all from any sort of lazy video transfers. It’s crisp and pristine as it should be.

Video grade: A+

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Audio

Oblivion is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. Much like the video transfer, the audio mix here is perfect. Headlined by M83’s hypnotic score, the environmental ambience is perfectly balanced between all of the channels. The mix immerses you within the film, rather than keeping the mix strictly on the center channel. Every one of your speakers will get some use here. The dialogue is crystal clear, and dynamic ways the sound effects pan from one channel to the other are top-notch. The subwoofer gets a workout here thanks to the film’s superior sound design. Every explosion, drone blast, thruster roar can be FELT from the subwoofer. This is one excellent mix.

Audio grade: A+

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Special Features
• Feature Commentary with Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski
• Deleted Scenes
• Promise of a New World: The Making of Oblivion—A comprehensive and thought-provoking multi-part feature covering the making of Oblivion, including:
• Destiny – Looks inside the conceptualization, development and pre-production of Oblivion and the planning that went into the Herculean task of shooting the epic film.
• Voyage – Follows the creation of the amazing Bubble Ship from its early design conception to its journey around the world. (Blu-ray™ exclusive)
• Combat – Explores the film’s ground-breaking action and death-defying stunts, all performed by one of the most popular movie stars in the world. (Blu-ray™ exclusive)
• Illusion – Focuses on the film’s post-production and dazzling visual effects.
• Harmony – Delves into the innovative musical world of M83.
• M83 Isolated Score — Watch the entire film accompanied by the evocative music track.

Your standard fair share of featurettes, but I love the inclusion of the isolated score. That’s something I have not seen before in a Blu-ray release, and since I’m a fan of M83’s score this is something I loved using as background noise while I was working on this review.

Extras grade: B

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

Oblivion is out on Blu-ray and DVD August 6th.

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