Posts Tagged ‘Tom Cruise’

Oblivion (2013)

May 15, 2013 2 comments

Oblivion poster

I suppose Oblivion (2013) makes a change. Instead of dealing with the crash-bang defeat of an alien invasion and stopping the cameras rolling before Earth gets to do the clean-up operation, removing all the damaged and destroyed buildings and the bodies of the aliens we managed to slaughter, this film starts off with the notion that the aliens turned up and attacked the moon. Don’t you just love science fiction. Knowing they could never hope to defeat Earth’s military might, they took on the one target they knew they could beat. Oh, and of course, substantial destruction of the moon changed the gravitational effect of said moon and there were earthquakes and tsunamis down here that pretty much did in Earth’s defences. Pretty sneaky, huh? Except the military had enough nuclear firepower to defeat these pesky creatures when they did land. The price of Earth’s victory? Contamination on an epic scale.

At this point, i.e. about two minutes into the film, we get a major inconsistency in the narrative. If Earth was seriously damaged by all this, how come we could develop the technology to build this superduper space station and go into residence around Titan? This is clearly beyond our abilities, even without the odd high tide washing over cities. More importantly, if Earth didn’t beat all these scavenger beings and they hang around still attacking our hero, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), why not get more systematic to exterminate them before settling into a life in outer space to wait for the planet to heal? Failure on this front means they breed while we’re away and can build defences to stop us coming back. We’re also immediately shown that “they” are messing with our hero’s memories. He keeps getting flashbacks to the pre-invasion Earth and sees this dominant image of a woman. This must be some imperfection from the last security memory wipe which occurred almost five years ago. Except Jack is obviously an unreliable narrator and we can’t trust anything he claims to remember. His minder (and lover), Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), is apparently there to keep Jack on mission and acting within the “rules” laid down by Sally (Melissa Leo), the liaison officer in command from the space station.

Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise in the mile high club

Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise in the mile high club

So we hypothesise that the aliens won and, having wiped Jack’s memories, are now using him to repair their drones while they steal our water. The images of the beached ships and odd bits of building left exposed are quite impressive and confirm destruction on an epic scale. Assuming this is replicated across the planet, it’s inconceivable humanity survived in any numbers. As you would therefore expect, this homely drone maintenance engineer and his consort believe they are the only folk left on Earth and they have one of these idyllic homes perched on top of a mountain while he completes the establishment of the drone network (except the trailer has already shown us that Beech (Morgan Freeman) is alive and well and living in semidarkness so he can see where the end of his cigar is to light it when he strikes a match). His sidekick is Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who looks difficult to kill. OK so what’s the verdict after ten minutes? It seems Earth has also developed antigravity because these drones move around without regard to little constraints like mass and momentum. There’s also this nifty flying thingamagummy for Jack to patrol his allocated quadrant which is also way beyond anything we could have developed.

For the record, not one bit of the “science” in this science fiction film makes any sense. If aliens blew up the moon, we could have a ring like Saturn which would be really cool when the sun shines on it or there could be a big dust cloud which would have substantially the same mass as the moon in solid form, i.e. have the same gravitational effect. If the moon was pushed away, the sun would take over as the dominant gravitational force and we’d get high tide at noon every day. Oh, and people would stop changing into wolves when the moon was full. The assertion Earth would have been pulled to pieces because of this sneak attack is ludicrous. The only point of this scenario is to justify the montage of CGI images that provide a context for the actors to say their lines which, for the most part, are ditchwater dull and make little sense.

Morgan Freemen and Nikolaj Coster Waldau looking stealthy

Morgan Freemen and Nikolaj Coster Waldau looking stealthy

Perhaps we can save the film by dignifying it as an SFnal examination as to the meaning of identity. You know the kind of thing. We are the sum of all we remember so, if there’s an artificial block on our memories, our character changes. Why? Because if we can no longer remember how we reacted in the past, experience stops guiding us in the present. Except all this film does is prove these damn fool aliens don’t have a mind machine to beat the mind of Tom Cruise. He’s back in the past remembering football games and this woman on top of the Empire State Building. You just can’t keep the mind of a good hero down. It bears mentioning that the main plot set-up and twist is the same as in Moon (2009) which was not unlike Eutamnesia (2000). It’s difficult to be genuinely original when there have been so many books and films on this theme. So perhaps we can say the CGI is great and the action exciting? Well, the first fight sequence is chaotic and the behaviour of the drone makes little sense. Then an old piece of technology crashes and, after forcing the drones to pull away, Jack rescues Julia (Olga Kurylenko). She’s been in suspended animation for sixty (or more) years and, yes, she’s the girl he keeps remembering. What? Earth had suspended animation technology? Perhaps they also had stealth technology as well.

At this point, lots of stuff happens and then it ends. Perhaps this would not have been too bad if it had only been a ninety minute film but, at one-hundred-and-twenty-four minutes, it feels like Purgatory. It’s an excuse to watch Tom Cruise ride his motorbike, fly this cool thingamagummy and shoot at whatever moves (and do environmentally sustainable things in a patch of jungle). Andrea Riseborough is there to look good and prove that the alien mind machine works on women. Olga Kurylenko is there as the “other woman” and to perpetuate the species. Morgan Freeman lights up the screen and his cigar for about ten minutes. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is effectively invisible. For me Oblivion is appropriately named because that’s where the film should be consigned.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Your mission, Simon Pegg (Benji Dunn), should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the tired old IMF team and, when no-one is looking, take the mickey out of the whole thing. Should this fail, the secretary and her boss will deny all knowledge of you. Presumably because the offer came with rather more zeros on the end of it than our Simon has previously enjoyed, he accepted. For this, we should all be profoundly grateful. What might otherwise have been a rather tedious enterprise (yes, he also played Scotty in the reboot of Star Trek) now has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments to make us all feel better about spending 133 minutes in the presence of Tom Cruise who, let’s face it, can be rather tiresome.

Tom Cruise goes for a walk in the Dubai park


At this point, I need to say a few words about Brad Bird whose name appears as the director of the whole shooting-match. This man has cut his creative teeth in comedy, being part of the creative team at Pixar that brought us Toy Story 3 and Up. More importantly, he has years of experience on The Simpsons. This is not to say Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is played entirely for laughs. That would rather run counter to the spirit of the MI brand which is supposedly high-octane, adrenalin-pumping action throughout. But even when the camera is on Tom Cruise, there’s a faintly irreverent tendency to play with expectations and make us smile just before he does something spectacular or there are explosions to get us back on track. This allowed a rather hackneyed plot to get through to the end with only a few boring moments.

Jeremy Renner showing his good profile


So here we go again with the megalomanic who thinks it would be a salutary lesson for humanity to provoke the superpowers into exchanging a few nuclear warheads. He starts the ball rolling by blowing up a part of the Kremlin and then gets into the more serious business of launching a nuclear strike at Seattle. The only thing standing between us and nuclear armageddon is the rump of the IMF. That’s Benji Dunn on his first real mission after qualifying for fieldwork, Jane (Paula Patton) who’s aggressively physical but an emotional wreck after her previous field boss was assassinated, and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who’s also somewhat emotionally suspect given his last outing in the field left the woman he was supposed to protect dead.


In the best traditions of Mission Impossible, we start with a little backstory on Jane and then get into the rescue of Ethan Hunt from a Russian jail. They then have a few hours to infiltrate the Kremlin to steal information about the megalomaniac who’s only known by his code name. This is the usual excuse for Tom Cruise to walk through all the security checks as a Russian General and then break into the archives where the information is supposed to be stored. There’s a nice use of technology with Simon Pegg alongside to ensure it doesn’t always work properly and, with five minutes too much added value, the Kremlin blows up. In total, I estimate the whole film could benefit from being cut by between fifteen and twenty minutes. The MI production team just can’t resist adding just a little bit more to most sequences when less would have been better.

Paula Patton gets ready to beat up a Bollywood star


It’s the same when we get to Dubai. The action sequences on the outside of the Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building and a spectacular hotel — are jaw-dropping. There’s a wonderful sense of depth to the way this has been filmed and, as one never happy with heights, this is a tense moment for me. But, with the joke about the malfunctioning technology wearing thin, it’s all plotted as excuses for Tom Cruise to climb up and come down rather quicker, for there be be a cunning and more reliable use of technology until it gives them away, and then fights and chases. But for the location shots, this is generic thriller filler with the MI twist. The big fight at the end in the automated carpark is also tedious as we intercut with different team members trying to beat the odds as the missile flies towards Seattle. I feel very sorry for Michael Nyqvist as the villain. He was probably added in the hope it would boost the international box office takings after his success in Stieg Larsson’s “Girl” movies as Mikael Blomkvist, but he gets no real screen time to establish himself as a credible character. It could have been played by anyone and, in the fight sequences, probably was a stunt double most of the time.

Simon Pegg without the dilithium crystals in view


Taking a broader view, this would have been significantly improved by more discipline in the cutting room. Given what we are left with, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one of the better thrillers of the year if only because it’s not taking itself too seriously. Although I can’t see it justifying more films in the franchise, it’s markedly better than the last two MIs and worth seeing assuming you like Hollywood-style, somewhat brainless adventure stuff. As a final thought, there’s a rather nice element running through this which I will not spoil but which does show a slightly more human side to the otherwise mechanical Ethan Hunt.


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