Oblivion (2013): Non-Cyberpunk 2077


Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Fun fact, ever since I have started my journey here on Scene Before since 2016, I have talked about 10 Tom Cruise movies. Granted, 60% of those films happen to be in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, but still. I have talked about “The Last Samurai,” “Risky Business,” “The Firm,” “American Made,” and as recently suggested, all six of his “Mission: Impossible” movies. Over the years I have missed a few new releases of his that I had a chance to review while it was in the theater such as “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and “The Mummy,” but between life, a lack of motivation, and those kinds of weird-ass excuses, I have not gotten around to them.

So the question is, after all this time, will I finally get to these movies?! No! I will not!

Instead, I’m gonna focus on some other Tom Cruise films, one of which includes the 2013 post-apocalyptic science fiction flick “Oblivion.” This film, along with a few others are going to be reviewed in place of what could have been reviewed in June, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which was supposed to release at the end of the month. But, you know, coronavirus. It’s the talk of the town. While Tom Cruise felt the need for speed in 1986, things must have slowed down in 2020, which at this point is asking 2016 to hold a crapton of beers. Nevertheless, let’s stop dilly-dallying and start diving into the first review of…




“Oblivion” is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who coincidentally is also helming the upcoming film “Top Gun: Maverick,” which like this movie, stars Tom Cruise. Aside from Tom Cruise, this movie stars Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight, The Shawshank Redemption), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, To the Wonder), Andrea Riseborough (Welcome to the Punch, Disconnect), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones, Mama), and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter). This film takes place during post-apocalyptic times in the year 2077 and it follows Tom Cruise’s character of Jack Harper, who currently lives on Earth as a technician who is responsible for maintaining drones as remaining resources are extracted in order to complete a five-year mission. Once this mission is completed, Jack and his partner will join the rest of humanity on their new home, Titan, a moon near Saturn.

Going into “Oblivion” for this review, it was my first time watching it and I was relatively curious as to what it would contain. I figured from the title and Tom Cruise being put in the center that it would be somewhat blockbuster-esque. When it comes to Tom Cruise movies, it kind of sounded like an “Edge of Tomorrow” type of deal. After all that film is sci-fi and action based. Much like “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Oblivion” does have its moments of action, but it does not seem to commit as heavily to it. From what I remember of “Edge of Tomorrow,” the action in that film is almost nonstop. After all, the concept of “Edge of Tomorrow” completely warrants it. It’s “Groundhog Day,” but the same day over and over is in the middle of futuristic battle. “Edge of Tomorrow,” even though there are other things to like about it, shines mostly from its concept.

Similarly, the writing and story for “Oblivion” is not all that bad, but it is two of the main characters, at least to me, that give this movie its overall watchability. And even though Morgan Freeman is the second actor I mentioned when introducing this film, he is not the highlight, even though his voice is worthy enough of its own relaxation album. In fact, his character, is probably one of the few that I’ll probably forget as time goes on. But from the very beginning, Jack and his communications partner have terrific chemistry. This movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2077 and not only do the characters played by Cruise and Riseborough match the vibe of the time, but I was able to buy into the stakes regarding their partnership. Together, their goal as partners is to be an “effective team,” which plays heavily into how the movie unfolds. One of the things that I notice a lot about futuristic sci-fi, or maybe just sci-fi in general for some cases, is that compared to the world we live in today, there is some lack of emotion in certain spots. Even with the lack of emotion in place, there is still a sense of realized chemistry between Cruise and Riseborough. And when the dramatic moments do hit, I feel it. This movie is a post-apocalypse story first, but if I were to judge it as a relationship drama, I’d give it a thumbs up. Also, sidenote, I like how at the beginning of the film he travels in his ship with his personal bobblehead to keep him company. It’s like his own little hula girl you put on the dashboard of your car or something.

“Oblivion” came out in 2013, and when it comes to the effects in this film, they feel pretty clean despite being in this rather depressing environment, but that’s not a bad thing. It does add a little glamour to something that doesn’t have much life in it. Specifically, I’m talking about the world, not the movie. This is not me bashing on the movie. I mean, the drones look very well put together and even though we just saw a new “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie that came out this year, the drones in this movie look twice as detailed and polished. I like the drones from a sound perspective as well.

I will say, having watched this movie in 2020, it does feel a bit weird, because even though we are living in a time where things are getting back to normal, one of the major plot points of the movie involves Tom Cruise’s past. Without really diving into spoiler territory, the way “Oblivion” handles this is likable, and as of now, kind of relatable. The movie starts out with Tom Cruise in an industrialized New York City, and it goes into his emotions in terms of how much he longs for the good days of old to return. Back when we had toilet paper and less masks and gather–wait, I think this is the wrong timeline! From this moment, and a few others during the movie, I got a sense of who the character of Jack Harper really was. A guy who went about his daily life with his partner, appreciating one moment after the next, but he also wanted the past to return, back when the Earth had numerous fun activities.

And even though Jack Harper is… (sigh) a Yankees fan, I understood his character because he wanted activities like sports and those sorts of things to return. Although given the circumstances, bringing those back would be a near impossible task.

I also really like the character of Julia, played by Olga Kurylenko. As mentioned, this movie focuses a lot on Jack Harper’s past, and the same can be said for this character. The way this was handled was very well done and made for one of the better parts of the movie. If I am not mistaken, “Oblivion” is my introduction to Olga Kurylenko, so I would like to see what else is put on her resume in the future.

Now onto the negatives, the film honestly starts much better than it concludes. I think the best parts of the movie take place through exposition and buildup. Even though the climax is somewhat entertaining, it misses an oomph factor to take it up a couple notches. Once again, I will mention, as much I like Morgan Freeman, this is probably one of his roles that I will end up forgetting. Granted, per usual, he is charismatic, but compared to other characters in the film, he does not climb up the ladder for me.

In the end, I went into “Oblivion” thinking it was kind of going to start off as this big action extravaganza, like “Edge of Tomorrow,” but it turned out to be something somewhat smaller in scale, which I am fine with. The shots in this movie are very well done, I admire most of the characters, and when it comes to Joseph Kosinski as a director, seeing this film makes me somewhat faithful that he can pull off a “Top Gun” sequel. Although when it comes to his past work, “Tron: Legacy” is definitely worth your time. Would I watch “Oblivion” again? Sure I would. In fact, this might be one of those movies that might be better the second time. It may have one or two moments or things that I missed that could make for a relatively fun second go. As far as Tom Cruise movies go, not bad. I’m going to give “Oblivion” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This is the first installment to my Tom Cruise Month review series, I hope you enjoyed it, because I want to remind you that this is just the beginning. My next film in the series is going to be the 1983 flick “All the Right Moves…” I wish I’m doing something else, but here we are. That review is probably going to be up on Monday or Tuesday, depends on when I watch the movie. But next Friday is my current deadline. I wanted to get the post I’m doing right now up by this previous Tuesday, but between everything going on in the world, and I will admit, laziness, I was a little late on this. By the way, if you are reading this, happy June! …Or whatever time in the world it is, I lost track I don’t know how many centuries ago. If you want to see more content like this, please consider following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, head on over to my Facebook page! WE HAVE TOILET PAPER! That’ll get everyone in, right? I want to know, did you see “Oblivion?” What did you think about it? Or, do you have any bobbleheads? List em’ down in the comments, I want to hear about them! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018): Terry Gilliam’s Snail Crawl


“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is directed by Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Time Bandits) and stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Girls), Jonathan Pryce (Glengarry Glen Ross, Tomorrow Never Dies), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, Mamma Mia!), Olga Kurylenko (The November Man, Oblivion), and Joana Ribeiro (Madre Paula, Dancin’ Days). This film is about a film director named Toby who runs into a Spanish cobbler from his past. Said cobbler believes himself to be Don Quixote. Throughout the runtime, the movie displays the two’s adventures.

Now this movie is actually pretty special, not necessarily to me, but to the history of cinema and its director, Terry Gilliam. If you know Terry Gilliam and what he has done in the past, you’d know that he has worked on multiple “Monty Python” films, “Brazil,” and “Time Bandits.” Regardless of the movies that he made in the past that general audience members do know, this is one that a bunch of people may have known by name, but never have gotten a chance to look into. Because this has a special place in cinematic history. It’s a movie that has embodied the term “development hell.” No matter how hard this visionary tries to successfully make a film, he fails. Actors keep getting sick or losing interest, sets break apart, funding goes down the drain, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! In fact, as several sources suggest, including the film itself in its opening titles, this took about three decades to complete. And if you notice some of the casting choices and complicated set pieces in the film, it is somewhat easy to see why.

But the question I have is this. Is the movie too outdated for today’s era? Does it tend to hold up? I honestly think it does. While I have not seen any of the “Monty Python” films to this day (almost saw “Life of Brian” once though), I can see why people come back to those films, and the humor, from what I gathered, must have translated from those films into this one. In fact, when it comes to this film, it is nothing short of hysterical! The chemistry between the two main characters is delightful, and even reminds me of George and Lennie from “Of Mice and Men.” It’s not exactly a precise comparison, but if you have been exposed to both properties, you’d be able to see why I’d say that.

In fact, part of me is almost surprised that this movie’s story turned out as well as it did, because when it comes to “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” I really heard a lot more regarding its production value and whatever comes from the technical side of things, which we will get into momentarily, but I am almost surprised that the story turned out as well as it did. Granted, with this much time to work on a production, it would be somewhat expected that the story would go through tons of revision to get the best possible product. And I think, while not perfect, the story is definitely worth noting. Conceptually, the idea of someone thinking they actually ARE a character they’ve played in their past is nothing short of genius, but even some of the greatest ideas had poor execution. Hey, let’s make a “Star Wars” film where Darth Vader is a kid! It’ll be full of digital creatures, critical space politics, and highly choreographed fighting! Alright! Chop chop! We’ve got until 1999, let’s party like it’s the end of the world!

I already talked about the dynamic duo of this film, but when it comes to their individual characters, they are kind of great on their own. In fact, Adam Driver’s character sort of reminds me of myself in some ways. He’s a director who is really into his craft, he tends to remain somewhat calm but is not afraid to be honest, and he seems somewhat motivational too. I think Adam Driver was good casting, and despite watching the documentary “Lost In La Sancha” and doing research on this film, I honestly think that it is hard for me to see anybody else playing Driver’s character. As for “Don Quixote,” I thought he was perfect. It is only April, and I don’t even know if I will technically qualify this film as a 2019 movie, but if I do, Jonathan Pryce as Don Quixote is the best performance of 2019 thus far. He’s basically Gandalf if he collided with an elementary school teacher. Compared to Driver, Pryce is hyperactive, upbeat, and often speaks in a much higher pitch. Then again, when you’re still the guy playing Kylo Ren, you’re going to need to practice in order to continue possessing your dark and brooding role. In fact, this duo’s chemistry is so good that when the movie moves toward’s its climax, all the buildup to it is definitely worth showing. I won’t go into the climax, but something really weird and interesting happens. Yes, that’s completely vague, I don’t care, figure it out for yourself. This allows yourselves to use your imaginations, it’s powerful!

As far as this movie goes as a production, I think the cinematography is great, the locations almost come out of a storybook, the sets are complicated to the point where you would either wish to visit them or at least wonder how they were conceived. It definitely has that feeling you would get out of a “Lord of the Rings” film, although in a slightly smaller scale, which isn’t really a bad thing. There are some neat edits to be seen, and if you watch the movie, you can definitely get an image as to why this took years to make. Just seeing the first windmill within minutes sets the tone for the entire movie (alongside the opening titles), I knew I was in for a ride, and I definitely walked out with… what’s a tamer version of an adrenaline rush? In fact, when it comes to my experience, the movie tends to showcase that 110%, because I saw this film under an engagement from Fathom Events since they were saying the film was going to be in theaters for one night. Turns out it is a getting a VOD and theatrical run starting this weekend, but still. As part of the event, I stayed for the credits and got a quick look into how the film was made. In fact, it is easy to tell that everyone was passionate about Gilliam’s project. There was even a brief clip with Adam Driver saying “I just love his movies.” Knowing Gilliam’s track record, it is easy to see why. In fact, one of my most recent reviews was for the movie “Us,” and I said that the movie intrigued me enough to make me want to take a glance at “Get Out,” I can say something similar about seeing this movie and Terry Gilliam’s filmography. I kinda want to watch more “Monty Python,” “Time Bandits,” (my dad is BEGGING me to watch that), “Brazil,” and perhaps whatever else he has up his sleeves. Let’s just hope his future projects don’t fall apart like this one!

In the end, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is a marvelous movie for cinematic adventures! Knowing the backstory behind this movie, this is what it must have been like. You’re a kid trying to build a complex LEGO set, one in which you have been putting years of effort into only to have your younger sibling smash it to the ground. Again. Again. And again. Knowing that such a development hell-esque movie could turn out like this, gives me hope for the industry going forward. I’m glad that the end result had come out to something that feels the opposite of someone just wanting to get something done so they don’t have to do it again. You know, kinda like when you’re a dad dragged by your young teen daughter to a One Direction concert. Terry Gilliam has obviously put his heart and soul into something that isn’t quite perfect (much like this film’s progress), but is definitely worth highlighting as an important piece of art in cinematic history. I’m going to give “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” an 8/10. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “Apollo 11,” the recent documentary which reveals footage of the mission of the same name. Also, next week, we’ve got some important movie news! If December 25th is Christmas, then APRIL 25th is Avengersmas. Wait… Avengersmas? Endgameas? Endgamas? Infinitymas? Marvelmas? Whatever, I’ll let everyone have their own interpretation on the matter. One of my upcoming reviews, is for the biggest movie, well… ever. 22 installments, 11 years, no reboots, and a crapton of end credit scenes. Next week I am going to “Avengers: Endgame” opening night and holy crap, it is rare for me to have this much anticipation for a film! I am honestly shocked myself because I’ve often thought of some recent installments to the MCU as less memorable compared to some others, but not only do I have faith in this one, but this is practically an event. And I am certainly glad to be a part of the event. April 25th, you cannot come soon enough!

Also, last week I revealed a trailer for something I am calling “Project 2020,” I figured if you guys didn’t see it yet and have some sort of curiosity as to checking it out, I will provide a link to the video down below, please check it out. Or don’t, it’s your guys’ world and I just live in it. Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you like that is known for going through some kind of development hell? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!