Oblivion ★★★★½

I admit to being somewhat apprehensive as the movie began. Even though the trailers had piqued my interest, I could not help but worry that the film would be an uninspired routine entry in the science-fiction genre. I need not have worried, however, because "Oblivion" offers spectacular, well-made science-fiction fare that entertains the viewer on a visceral level and also stimulates their mind.

While co-writer/director Joseph Kosinski’s work here is reminiscent of movies such as "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Solaris", "Sunshine", and "WALL-E", "Oblivion" feels distinctive and fresh and doesn’t come across as derivative. The filmmakers should be commended for trying to do something different—for a big-budget Hollywood movie, at least—and mostly succeeding at it.

The largely unpredictable narrative has an undercurrent of thought-provoking, even philosophical, questions, primarily concerning the nature of identity. Throughout the film, there are several interesting plot developments and twists that keep the viewer on edge. A sense of discovery permeates the proceedings, which is part of the reason why "Oblivion" took me by surprise and swept me away.

Story-wise, the last third is not as strong as the rest of the movie, but it is nevertheless engaging and should not detract much from one’s overall appreciation of the film. Furthermore, it must be mentioned that there exists a certain emotional distance between the viewer and the protagonists; however, given one of the plot twists, I feel inclined to believe that that is intentional.

Claudio Miranda’s seductively gorgeous cinematography and the remarkable, wonderful production design by Darren Gilford and his team work together to create striking visuals, some of which are genuinely stunning. The musical score by M83, which at times reminded me of Hans Zimmer’s music for "Inception" and "The Dark Knight Rises", is appropriately futuristic and simply terrific; it perfectly complements the other aspects of the movie.

Tom Cruise certainly fits the role of Jack Harper and delivers a rock-solid performance; he really shines in roles like this one. Andrea Riseborough impresses with a very good, nuanced turn as Victoria, Jack’s colleague, who most of the time exudes tranquility and firm dedication to the couple’s mission. Providing some of the emotional core of "Oblivion", Olga Kurylenko does a fine job as Julia. The secondary characters Beech and Sykes are satisfactorily played by Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, respectively. Melissa Leo has a very small part as Sally, to which she brings a seeming friendliness laced with an unsettling, possibly malevolent quality that is difficult to pinpoint.