'Oblivion' Review: Joseph Kosinski's Love Letter To Science Fiction Films

The Matrix. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Independence Day. Star Wars. Wall-E. If you know and like those movies (and at least one more we won't mention to avoid spoiling anything) you're going to find Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion incredibly familiar. The filmmaker's second film directly references and was indirectly influenced by a plethora of classic films, giving his "original" story a not-so-original feel. It's almost as if Kosinski's love of sci-fi was so big, he simply had to stuff it all into one big movie.

Yet even with those influences bursting from its seams, Oblivion is a delight. It is a gorgeous, exciting and satisfying film filled with beautiful visuals, eye-popping action and confident storytelling.

Within the first five minutes, Oblivion presents a multitude of ways it could go off the rails. Voiceover explains the Earth of a future in which aliens have invaded, leading to nuclear strikes that won the war for humanity, but nearly destroyed the planet. Most of humanity is on Jupiter's moon Titan, or on an orbital station preparing for the journey.

Jack (Tom Cruise) is part of a two-person team (along with Andrea Riseborough) maintaining high-powered, weaponized drones (that look like EVE meets GLaDOS) to protect installations that convert sea water to energy. Oh, and every night, Jack dreams of a past life and a beautiful woman. Sound complicated? It is, and there's even more to it, all explained in the film's opening minutes. Certainly that's too much to cover in a single movie, right? Wrong.

After that opening, Kosinski and credited screenwriters Karl Gajdusek and Michael DeBruyn take a huge step back. The director just wants to make sure the audience has a good basis for the slow burn story ahead. For the next hour, we're meticulously taken through Jack's world. Remnants of global destruction are juxtaposed against stunning vistas. We see very sleek weapons, ships and living quarters. Nostalgia and a love of the arts are expressed, and we get a sneaking suspicion that something is wrong. It's a fun world to explore, but after starting at a 10, the film dials the pace back to about a 4. It's a little slow, but always enthralling.

Things pick up, big time, when a mysterious ship crashes on Earth. The cargo includes Julia (Olga Kurylenko), the woman Jack dreams about every night. This mystery of the crash and Julia's purpose will set Jack down a path to the truth about his job, his world and worlds beyond. This is where we get some fun reveals, and kick-ass action (just wait for the air sequence). And when the film starts to end you won't want it to, because the crazy questions set up at the beginning are answered minute by minute.

Oblivion may be incredibly familiar and very derivative, but it is crafted with confidence and style to present a story that'll keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Kosinski and Cruise have a winner.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10