Not many movies this year have been as universally beloved as Top Gun: Maverick, and it’s not hard to see why. The legacy sequel delivers all the high-flying thrills and jolts of nostalgic warmth that fans hoped it would. It also tells a story that manages to stand on its own, a refreshing change in the age of interconnected sequels and franchises. Maverick should go down as one of the most well-directed action movies of the decade, thanks in no small part to the work done by star Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski.
Maybe their collaboration was a success because it wasn’t the first time Cruise and Kosinski worked together. Back in 2013, the pair made the sci-fi thriller Oblivion, which received a mixed response and has been largely forgotten since its release.
That’s a shame, considering Oblivion boasts much of the same technical prowess from Kosinski that’s on clear display in Top Gun: Maverick. Fortunately, Oblivion has just been added to Netflix’s catalog, which means it’s easy to give the duo’s first film together another chance.
Based on an unreleased graphic novel created by Kosinski, Oblivion takes place on a futuristic version of Earth that’s been destroyed and transformed. Set in 2077, the film follows Jack Harper (Cruise), a security technician charged with protecting rigs that are extracting Earth’s remaining natural resources. Those resources will be sent to a distant colony where humanity’s survivors have relocated following a devastating nuclear war against alien invaders.
Two weeks before Jack and his partner, Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), are set to complete their mission, Jack begins to suspect that not everything he’s been told is true. His suspicions only grow after he rescues a woman, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), from a shipwreck, and finds himself engaged in an unexpected battle with his faraway superiors. The more time he spends with Julia, the more Jack realizes just how little he actually knows about the war that decimated Earth.
To say much more would spoil many of Oblivion’s twists, which are already more obvious than Kosinski and screenwriters Karl Gajdusek and Michael deBruyn probably intended them to be. Thanks to its nesting doll narrative, Oblivion feels indebted to similar sci-fi mysteries like Moon. Visually, however, Oblivion is, much like Top Gun: Maverick, a collage of awe-inspiring, carefully considered blockbuster images.
From the fluorescent-lit scene in which Cruise and Riseborough swim in a pool suspended above the Earth’s clouds, to the shots of Cruise standing in the middle of dilapidated football fields, Oblivion is full of images impossible to look away from. Like, Maverick, Oblivion also takes full advantage of Cruise’s enduring star power. Whether he’s giving a monologue in front of a broken goalpost about Earth’s last Super Bowl or riding across dystopian landscapes on a motorbike, Cruise’s innate charisma is ever-present.
It’s not hard to see why Cruise chose Kosinski to direct Top Gun: Maverick as, despite the genre difference, Oblivion feels like a sister film to the smash blockbuster. Even though Oblivion’s convoluted plot gets in the way of its effectiveness, the film is the kind of elegantly made, well-crafted blockbuster Hollywood desperately needs.
In that sense, time has been kind to Oblivion. Initially considered a critical disappointment, it’s since developed a growing cult following. The success of Top Gun: Maverick is a good excuse to give it the second chance it deserves. If you do, you’ll find yourself getting sucked into a sci-fi blockbuster that’s far too well-made, choreographed, and acted to be considered the disappointment it was in 2013.
Oblivion is available to stream now on Netflix.