Just Another Day in Paradise: Oblivion (2013)


Just Another Day in Paradise:




Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

‘To every man upon the earth

Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers

And the Temples of his Gods’.

—Lays of Ancient Rome.


Can you imagine if every film review made a big issue out of the religion of the lead actor?  What about, for example, Liam Neeson being raised as a Roman Catholic?

Sure, we could have a bit of fun with films like Lamb and The Mission.  But what sort of weird slant would we be putting on his movies by the time we got to The A-Team or Taken 2?  The mind boggles.

How about Ghassan Massoud, the Muslim actor who was in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Or who played Saladin in Ridley Scott’s wonderful, underappreciated Kingdom of Heaven?

Picture kicking off a review with:  “Neeson was born into the religion of that lot who have priests that are better known  for being members of a huge paoedophile ring than for saying their prayers.”


“It is ironic that Massoud plays Saladin, because he belongs to that murderous bunch of nutters who are forever threatening to blow up everyone from writers to cartoonists.”

It wouldn’t happen, would it?  So how come so many reviewers of any Tom Cruise film these days seem to think that it’s fair game to slag off his religion before talking about the film?  And please, away with that old malarkey about Scientology being a made-up religion.  What the hell do you think that the rest of them are?  Or that it involves…*ooohhh, shudder*…brainwashing.  Listen, don’t talk to me about brainwashing.  I went to a Catholic primary school in the ‘60s.  When I was about nine I expressed doubts about some of the nonsense I was hearing and had the Wrath of Jehovah visited on me by the teachers.  As if it was a sin to have an inquiring mind. (Admittedly it got better at secondary.  By that time they had given up.)

Brainwashing?  What about that old Jesuit boast of giving them the boy before he is seven…

So lay off Cruise.  If you don’t like him then don’t watch his movies

His latest one, Oblivion, isn’t going to get any awards for groundbreaking originality; but it is highly enjoyable on several different levels, taking in contemplative to action and even straying into Philip K.  Dick territory with questions on identity and individuality.  Now that’s not bad for what is essentially a big budget Hollywood crowd-pleaser.

It’s the year 2077, some six decades after the Earth has been invaded by aliens known as ‘the Scavengers.’   They had come to bleed the planet dry of its natural resources and leave it a withered old husk, obviously no one having told them that we were doing a damned fine job of that all on our own.  In a classic case of ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ they blow up our moon, meaning that earthquakes and tsunamis ensure that our planet is wrecked whilst we nuke them back to the Stone Age, leaving only scattered remnants whilst the remainder of humanity colonises Titan, a moon of Saturn.  Actually, I found all of this quite believable, except that I doubt we would need the help of another species to destroy ourselves.  As I said, we seem to be managing global destruction just fine without any help.

Well, all of humanity hasn’t relocated quite yet.  On a massive ship called a Tet there is a group who are draining the sea water in order to convert it to energy for Titan; and on the surface of the ravaged planet there are Jack (Cruise) and Vika Olsen ( Andrea Riseborough).

If you make it through the first ten minutes of Oblivion then you are on reasonably solid ground.  The two stumbling blocks are likely to be a) one of those indigestible chunks of exposition that some science-fiction filmmakers like to hit us with;  and b) the suspicion that this is going to be one of those films where Cruise tries to show us how boyishly charming he is.  Relax; despite the fact that at one point I thought that I was in for the dubious pleasure of a Top Gun in space, that doesn’t happen.  Jack and Vika are nearing the end of their tour of duty on earth, he working as a maintenance man for the various machines connected with the Tet and she as the person who monitors his movements.  Their only connection with humanity is through Sally, who appears every morning on a small screen to insincerely ask them how they are this fine morning, only to be met with Vika’s standard reply of ‘Another day in Paradise.’  ( Sally is played by Mellisa Leo, despite the fact that I spent the entire movie wondering why Robin Wright had taken such a tiny part.)

These first forty or so minutes of the film are my favourites:  the station is high above the clouds and the views of earth and the shattered moon are quite staggeringly beautiful.  And as the two partners (both at work and play) go about their duties I was reminded a little of Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 version of Solaris.  Riseborough’s performance as Vika is almost eerily beautiful.  With large Bambi eyes and languid manner she is utterly happy in her work and even more so as her time for going to Titan approaches.  Despite the fact that she is alone on the station all day she does her hair and dresses immaculately each morning.  There’s no fear of this girl slopping out in a tracksuit.

Jack, on the other hand, would be quite content to stay there.  He has found an idyllic spot where he hides away for hours on end, indulging his lively imagination, playing basketball with himself, listening to his collection of old long-playing records and drinking from a crystal-pure lake.  He also has a collection of books that he has scavenged (ironically enough) and one of which both fascinates him and provides the quote at the top of this piece.  Yes, Jack would happily stay on.  “We won the war, why do we have to leave?” he muses.  See the above paragraph that deals with the drawbacks of using nukes, Jack.

Despite having undergone the mandatory memory wipe before each mission, he finds himself haunted by visions of old New York and of a girl there.  Two other things are about to rock his routine.  One is the crash of a ship which has one survivor in the shape of the girl he has been dreaming about, Julia ( (Olga Kurylenko); and the other is finding a group of human survivors lead by a man called Beech (Morgan Freeman).

To say any more would be to give away too much of a pleasantly tangled plot.  So I would say, if you have been in two minds then just give it a look.

One imagines that Claudio Miranda, who does the cinematography, must have had a wonderful time.  He gets to do his magic with the most gorgeous post-apocalypse sets.  There is one far-too-brief scene where Jack rides his motorbike across a grey-brown desert landscape that is littered with abandoned, beached and half-buried ships and submarines.  It is like a beautiful and desolate image from a JG Ballard novel.  And then he also gets to show us Jack’s luscious Garden of Eden.

The screenplay is by Karl Gajdusek and Michael deBruyn, based on an unfinished graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski, who also directs.  His debut film was Tron: Legacy which I can’t comment on, having missed out on it.  Which I now think was probably a pity.

I have no idea what religion he is.

Author: Charley Brady

Share This Post On


  1. I’ve always thought Cruise was a damn fine actor, his performance in Born on the 4th of July was outstanding, but he seems to be type cast for big budget action movies, I’d like to see him play a few more serious roles, and yeah what has religion got to do with acting anyway?.

    As for Oblivion, what a visual treat, the CGI and Cinematography were breathtaking at times, the plot was so so to be fair but you never get bored watching it, actually it seemed like a fast two hours.

    Tron Legacy is well worth checking out Charley I loved it, superb visuals and once the plot gets moving its a rip roaring roller coaster of a ride.

  2. Yes, there’s moments in ‘…4th of July’ where you just FEEL his howling frustration so badly. And I think his Lestat in ‘Interview with the Vampire’ confounded a lot of people.

    I’ll watch out for ‘Tron:Legacy’. I recall seeing the original when it came out in –I think–the eighties and it was quite cutting-edge at the time. AND it had the great David Warner if I remember correctly.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.