Watch 2001: A Space Odyssey before going to see this. Trust me. Just do.
There's something surreal about this film that reminded me a lot of Tron: Legacy, and then I found out why. It shares the same director, Joseph Kosinski, and Legacy was his only feature film up until this point. I think a major part of it was the techno music. I might not have thought that such music would have fit into this type of film, but then I realized that Oblivion had a style to it that reminded me very much of a video game with a ton of cut scenes, something that could come from the creators of Halo or Mass Effect, and when you add on top of that the video-game music, the visual style of the film's world, the way the characters dress, and the titles, it definitely all adds up.
Nothing about the music is terribly memorable, but it was very enjoyable and was a powerful mover and shaper of this film. For example, there were scenes that otherwise would have played as if they were slow, but something about the Tron-style music these scenes to feel far more driven. I actively enjoyed its presence as an accompaniment to the film, even if I won't remember any particular melodies.
The other stylistic strongpoint of this film is its cinematography, in which it does a beautiful job of capturing as much as it can with simple camera work. There are many wide shots that reveal the entire scene. Perhaps this is another reason for why it feels like a video game, because I can't think of many cut scenes with closeups on actors.
Joseph Kosinski based this movie off of an unpublished graphic novel of his, and as such I can describe the storytelling as having an extremely visual component. The film is definitely something pretty to look at, and has a lot of beauty. Some people get annoyed by this sort of thing, but the film medium was always visual, and in fact it was a special effect before it was ever used to tell stories. What's more, on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, there are movies that are about nothing but characters and story, and they suck. Look at The Room for a prime example. So I really hope that people who go to see this appreciate the serene scenery and visuals as means of enhancing the story. And yes, there is a serious attempt at a story, and it's more original than Tron: Legacy, which gathered some complaints for its pot.
This is what I am sure a lot of people will be interested. Obviously, I can't give away much, but here's the gist: One of the very first things that Jack Harper tells us is that he has dreams that feel like memories, but that can't be, because they are set on Earth and Earth was rendered uninhabitable some sixty years ago. What's more, as a security measure, he had his memory erased before being sent to his outpost on Earth. That's not suspicious at all. On top of what we know from the trailers, there are people living down on Earth, so it's really obvious that there's some sort of conspiracy going on. He's ever so slightly aware of it, and he says it outright in the very beginning, that he finds himself constantly questioning things, while his partner Victoria doesn't. This can only mean that she's going to be very frustrating later on.
Victoria is an interesting character. She doesn't seem to have much depth, and she's so reserved, but that's because she's obviously been brainwashed to be that way. If it wasn't for her, this film wouldn't have its most memorable line, "Are you still an effective team?" Remember these words well, for when you enter the theatre you should keep track of how many times that line is said and make an ironic comment every time.
Anyway, back to the story: another major note that everyone should know is that this is the type of movie that has a few plot twists. Some of them you will see coming, others you won't. It's evident from the trailer, of course, that it's that sort of movie. Fortunately, the trailer doesn't give away the major plot twists. While I can't guarantee that the major reveals left me in awe (so this isn't The Sting or The Usual Suspects), or surprised me necessarily, I didn't predict them. They weren't landmarks, but they were solid in their delivery.
For those who go in expecting an action film, it expertly avoids that. It actually is about story, for the most part, and I would personally have a story told through many visuals than a story told through tons of action. Not a whole lot happens for the first half of the film, since there's a bit to establish, but there's a bit to establish and the music, meanwhile, keeps these scenes mesmerizing. There are some explosions and the like, but only two moments that I would really consider action scenes, and pretty much all of these moments went to display just how scary a ruthless killing machine can be. Those drones would make awesome video game characters, and I could definitely stand to see more of them.
That's about all I have to say in terms of the story. The casting was pretty good, and all the actors felt really right for their roles. Tom Cruise, as crazy as he is in real life, is a great actor and he never fails to deliver when playing a character such as this one. Morgan Freeman is awesome, but what else is new? The only potential casting change I would have made was the former Bond Girl, Olga Kurylenko. If they were going to choose a French actress, I would have tried to book Eva Green.
Some people have complained that the film isn't original enough. I realize there is some truth to that, but I also notice that the director admitted that a major part of the story was paying tribute to the science fiction of the 70's (give or take a few years). unfortunately, I didn't get too many of them, but it would be cool if I did. It would be interesting to play a drinking game, where someone took a shot for every reference he or she heard. For me, it was all worth it, because the film had a ton of homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is my all-time favorite science-fiction movie. The most obvious one is the drones, but I caught on to their use of surreal black geometric objects, throwback images to the Star Child, and one monumental salute to HAL 9000 that basically canonized him as patron saint of artificial intelligence.
So walking away from this, the main things I remember are the cinematography, the music, the beautiful visuals and style of the world, and some of the brilliant references. That, and this would make an awesome video game.