'Are You an Effective Team?'
Starring: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman
The question that plagues the film from Mission Control, "Are you an effective team?" is answered with a resounding and resolute "no" by the film. The film is a visual affair in aesthetic bliss. The animations are sleek, the set design is spot on for the war torn future and the weapons, as well as the robots, look like machinations of a beautifully honed mind. Tom Cruise is typecast, somewhat unsuprisingly, as a soldier who has survived a war that ravaged Earth. But from that point onwards, despite the enthralling visuals, the brilliant set design, the completely in place costumes and the big budget names, the film starts to roll downhill. Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman are underused and almost appear misplaced in this film, and the film seems intent on redeeming it's sluggish pace and lack of direction throughout with a retributive ending.
Cruise plays a warrior, or a 'technician' called Jack Harper, who along with a very repressed but adoring Andrea as Victoria, serve as Earth's 'clean up crew' after a war between the people of Earth and the 'scavs' (scavengers). The war resulted in the moon being shattered (which is shown beautifully several times) and the necessary migration of the people of Earth off-planet to the distant moon of Titan. Jack and Victoria are tasked with maintaining the drones that patrol/protect and the hydro-electric 'rigs' designed to harness as much power as possible from the oceans in the form of hydroelectric power for the human race.
There is a haunting beauty to seeing the Earth designed in such a visceral aftermath; there are scatterings of ruins, remnants of once great buildings (the Empire State Building for one) in different stages of debris. Oddly enough, nature seems to have taken back the planet after humanity has 'abandoned' it; the cities that were shattered by earthquakes and tidal waves thanks to the destruction of lunar consistency are overrun by an abundance of foliage and an exotic variety of fauna.
Jack has a relatively rigid existence; he gets up, goes to work each day repairing drones, fighting bad guys and comes back home to be with Victoria. We get to see plenty of shots of Cruise pulling his focused and tense Hero Prototype looks and stances, but we don't really get to see much more than that. He is, however, haunted by memories of a woman, called Julia, played superbly subtly by Olga Kurylenko, from pre-war New York. She resurfaces during the film as a survivor and throws Jack's life, as well as his beliefs, into disarray.
Joseph Kosinksi, writer/director/producer of this reaching big budget film, also wrote the graphic novel that inspired him. The craftsmanship and love for stunning and precise animations is still there. Tron Legacy, Kosinksi's last 'big' outing on the silver screen, was similarly a visual treat. With a budget of a reported $120 million, you would expect big names, big effects and a visually stunning film, all of which this film delivers on.
The characters are often hard to relate to; which always makes for a difficult to watch film. Especially considering the pace and the fact that the film clocks in at over 2 hours. There's a love triangle, retribution, moments of sheer panic and a seat-of-your-pants thrill ride, but they all fade and blend into the background. The film trudges along, but the spark is essentially missing.
It feels like an extended throwback to old sci-fi films, with stunning new age visuals; which, unfortunately, doesn't blend well in this case.
The film itself is, however, worth watching alone for the visual treat; and while the storyline isn't groundbreaking, it makes a decent impact. For those unfamiliar with films such as The Day The Earth Stood Still, or even War of the Worlds (also starring Cruise) will find this film fun and well worth the ticket price. To all others, the film is still a strong outing in the sci-fi genre; it simply just feels like it missed the upright on a few sequences (the beginning of the film is peppered with football references).
The score hits all the right notes - it's poignant during points of reflection, and epic during the movie's major action sequences. Not a spectactular and memorable score, but one that does exceedingly well for the film and helps frame the emotions that the film hopes to be eliciting during each act to a tee.
Jessica Chastain, of Zero Dark Thirty fame, was originally meant to playing one of the female leads; which would have had a radical difference in the onscreen chemistry.
While the film obviously doesn't set out to answer the all important questions in life; it depicts a struggle that has been seen before in this genre - despite which, if for the visuals alone, it is still worth seeing.
What the Mr said:
The film trudged along like the little engine that could; however, it could have been so much more. More depth to the characters, more space to let the story breathe and a more fluid dynamic on screen would have made this movie into a spectacle to behold.
What the Misses said:
I liked it, but I didn't love it. I found it slow moving and almost hard to relate to the characters. I agree with the Mr though; the visuals were stunning and that is something that really draws me in. I must say though that I enjoyed it more than the man asleep (and snoring might I add,) in the second row!
But you didn't hear it from us,
Mr & Misses