Oblivion (2013) Surprisingly Good

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With my busy schedule lately, I’ve been going through “new film” withdrawal. Fortuitously Playstation Store had Oblivion as an early release for the price of £14.99 (about $23). Despite my reservations, my desperation to see any new film made me purchase the film. Result? Surprisingly good and worth the exorbitant price of purchase. *Does it annoy anyone else that Playstation “early releases” are only for sale and not for rent? Answers on a postcard please.”

The film is directed by Joseph Kosinski (who has a credit for co-wrting the screenplay along with Karl Gajdusek  and  Michael Arndt, he also directed Tron: Legacy). It stars Tom Cruise (insert prior film titles here), the gravitas actor himself Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman),  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau  (Game of Thrones, The Hunters, and the one actor who should play agent Leon in any live action film of the Resident Evil game series) and  Andrea Riseborough  (Welcome to the Punch, Brighton Rock).

The plot revolves around a future earth that has been destroyed and decimated by an alien race. Jack Hawkins (Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Riseborough) have two weeks left on the now inhospitable planet as a team assigned to protect the energy producing fusion generators that power Titan where the human survivors who fled Earth are living.

Earth won the conflict with the aliens after the moon was destroyed by using nuclear warheads and survivors who didn’t migrate to Titan are scavenging the equipment that Jack must protect.

As Jack and Victoria near the end of their mission and the scavenger attacks increase, he sees an object fall from the sky and when he tracks it to the crash site, he discovers something that changes his perception of the world and his place in it.

I enjoyed the film. As I said, it is surprisingly good. I have never been a huge Tom Cruise fan despite the fact that he’s always turned in excellent performances. I think it has to do with his rather bizarre behaviour “off screen.” Cruise doesn’t disappoint in this film and I was amazed at his physical condition. Something has to be said for having the money to maintain biceps that large.

I fell in love with Julia (Kurylenko), but then I’ve had a “screen crush” on this actress ever since Hitman.  

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Olga and Tom as Julia and Jack.

The film offers a brilliant cinematic experience and the characters all seem disturbingly real, despite the “Moon” device used and the somewhat “contrived” ending.  I found myself unable to stop watching the film and wound up  not taking any breaks. I was so caught up in the storyline that I didn’t want to pause it.

I will say that I did guess the plot twist fairly early on, but that was a combination of watching the trailer too many times and the fact that most sic-fi films all lean towards the same direction recently. In spite of the fact that I’d guessed the twist, I still enjoyed the film.

I have to give the film a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It loses half a star because I did guess the twist and its reliance on another film for another plot twist, so half a star off for lack of originality.  It is still a cracking good film and worth a watch.

So Oblivion was surprisingly good and I’m not upset that I had to buy the film versus just rent it. Although I do miss my special features and will most likely get a blue ray copy just for those. On my trip to South Africa (which I will keep posting about) I saw quite a few films that I need to review. The plane journey back was sleepless for the duration of the almost 11 hour flight, so I got to fit quite a few films in.  These will be cropping up from time to time in the form of reviews.

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The master of gravitas, Morgan Freeman.

Michael Smith

United Kingdom

7 August 2013

Headhunters/Hodejegerne (2011): Short Man Attitude…

At the risk of sounding like an old Carlsberg lager advertisement, Headhunters is probably the best film adaptation of a book…ever. With a screenplay by Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg based on the book by Jo Nesbo and directed by Morten Tyldum, Headhunters is a thriller of the highest order with more than capable acting from all involved.

The film stars Aksel Hennie as the 1.68 metre hero Roger Brown; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the Dutchman Clas Greve (and if ever there was a man born to play Resident Evil’s Leon Kennedy it’s Nikolaj, he looks like he’s stepped right out of Resi 4 or Resi 6); Nikolaj will be better known by English audiences from his work on Game of Thrones. The two female leads in the film are Synnøve Macody Lund as Diana Brown and Julie R. Ølgaard as the scheming Lotte. Synnøve is not an actress by profession, she’s a journalist and this is her first film. That she acquitted herself so well is amazing.

I first saw Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the 1994 Norwegian film Nightwatch. Interestingly, this was remade in 1997 as a vehicle for Ewan McGregor who went on to work with Nikolaj in 2001’s Blackhawk Down. It is interesting in that both actors display similar virtues in their work, a subtlety and awareness that enhance their performances and make them stand out in a film.

For those of you who have read Jo Nesbo’s brilliant book, you will know the plot already. If you have not had the pleasure of reading Headhunters, I suggest you rush down to your local book seller or library and do so. In the mean time, you will have to follow my recitation of the plot.

Roger Brown is one of Norway’s best headhunters. He is married to Diana and he lives a lavish lifestyle well above his salary. To supplement this lifestyle, he steals valuable art work and sells them with the help of his partner in crime Ove Kijkerud (played with a certain comic deviousness by Eivind Sander, who looked maddeningly familiar to me). Despite Roger’s supplemental income, he’s running low on financial resources and Diana is desperate for a child after seven years of marriage.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie)

While attending his wife’s art gallery opening he meets Clas Greve via an introduction by Diana. Roger discovers that Clas, who is the ex-CEO of a multimillion dollar GPS company a priceless painting in his possession and that he would be perfect for Roger’s current client Pathfinder. A Norwegian GPS company searching for a new CEO.

When Roger (with the aid of Ove) breaks into Clas’s flat to steal the painting, he finds Diana’s mobile (cell) phone in the bedroom. The next time he sees Clas, he tells him that the company is still interviewing candidates for the new position and he tells Diana that he will not be recommending Clas for the job.

Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

We see Ove going to Roger’s house to presumably pick up the painting. The next morning Roger goes to his garage to get in his car to drive to work. He discovers Ove apparently dead in the front seat of his car. Panicking, Roger shoves Ove into the boot (trunk) of his car just as Diana comes down to see if he (Roger) is all right.

Roger takes Ove’s body to a lake and fills the body’s pockets with stones and rolls Ove into the lake. As Roger sits on the lake shore catching his breath, Ove suddenly appears gasping for his breath only to sink under the water again. Roger jumps in and drags Ove out and takes him to his house.

Ove tries to shoot Roger and ends up getting shot for his trouble. Roger’s life had become a scary cat and mouse game with him as the mouse. Clas will not stop until he has killed Roger.

The locations are beautiful and the cinematography is superb. Despite the “creative license” taken with the book, the film works and manages to crank the suspense up just as effectively as the novel itself did. You still find yourself second guessing and because certain things were changed in the film, you hold your breath at the end, just in case it doesn’t turn out how you expected it to.

Askel does a brilliant job as Roger Brown, the short man with attitude. He seemed to me (looks wise) to be an odd cross between Christopher Walken and David Hemmings. His acting was spot on, morphing effortlessly from over-confident prig to terrified victim to desperate fighter. He rang all the changes necessary to sell his character.

Nikolaj has always made me think of Sean Bean, they could almost be brothers, and he has not disappointed me yet in anything I’ve seen him in.

The film can be viewed in Norwegian with English subtitles and I would highly recommend viewing it that way. It is very rare that dubbed versions are as enjoyable as the original language version. I always feel that a huge amount is lost by having another actor voice the lines. I would give Headhunters a whopping 5 out of 5 stars and class it as a two bag of popcorn film.

Don’t miss it and don’t wait for the remake, see it now!

Clas and his best friend on the hunt for Roger.