OBLIVION and THE ATTACK



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Oblivion is the new Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster, a description that may seem triply redundant.  Basically, it’s a bunch of “who didn’t see that coming” and a couple of “no real surprises there” and a few too many turnings to my friend and asking, “do you have any idea what’s going on here” (his reply, “I think so”, probably isn’t the sort of confident response the writers, Joseph Kosinski—who also directed, Karl Gadjusek and Michael Ardnt, were hoping for, though in their defense I don’t know whether I found the story hard to follow because it’s convolutedly written; or because I was so bored my mind kept wandering and I missed a plot point here and there; or both).
The basic premise has to do with some sort of yadda, yadda, yadda in which the earth it attacked by aliens and the moon is blown up making the earth uninhabitable.  After winning the war the people of earth moved to…no, you know what?  Forget it.  I’m sorry, but I’m not going to summarize it.  It’s just not worth it the money they’re paying me (okay, no one’s paying me anything, but it isn’t worth the money they would pay me if they were paying me, which they aren’t, so…).
Anyway, suffice it to say that our world is now one of those apocalyptic wastelands.  But even worse, it’s now filled with bland characters saying bland things in a bland plot.  I’d say the CGI is stunning, but we’re now grading on a curve and it’s no worse and no better than any other recent apocalyptic film (though I think the scenes of Cruise on a motorcycle speeding across the New York City desert looked a bit, well, cheesy to me).  The thumping, thunderous music by Anthony Gonzales, M.8.3. and Joseph Trapanese may not be great or original, but it’s nice to have someone trying to create a little tension here.  The production design by Darren Gilford includes a streamlined, glass house suspended in the sky (I’d say it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but this one is an engineering marvel).   The cast includes Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman for reasons as impenetrable as the plot (I hope it was for the paycheck).
The ending is a bit odd.  For a movie that seems to want to hold up the uniqueness of man and the importance of their survival, it finales on the dubious moral note (and a rather offensive one to me) that the death of a man is irrelevant as long as he has a clone hanging around.  It’s also borderline ludicrous since all I could think is “boy, is Julia…” (oh, right, uh, see, Julia is this character who..okay, she’s, uh…no, you know what, again, forget it, I’m not going to explain this part of the plot either), “boy, is Julia going to be surprised when all the other Tom Cruises show up”.   I could also make a joke about Tom Cruise and clones and isn’t he one already, etc., but I won’t since that sort of humor is beneath me. 
If you must see an apocalyptic movie, don’t see this one, see It’s a Disaster.  Even if you musn’t see an apocalyptic movie, see It’s a Disaster. 
What would do if you discovered out of nowhere and with no hint or clue to prepare you that your spouse was a terrorist.  No, take it a step further.  What would you do if he or she is a suicide bomber and has just killed a large number of people, including children?  That’s the basic premise of the new, breathtaking drama, The Attack.
Amin Jaafari is a Palestinian and a secular Muslim fully integrated into Israeli society.  He’s also a celebrated and well known doctor working at a major hospital.  The story begins with him receiving the most prestigious award one can receive as a doctor.  The next day, after a bomb explodes, he’s on the front lines in the ER, refusing to let even one child die.  He’s a saint.  No, the writers Ziad Doueiri, who also directed, and Joelle Touma are trying to do a little bit more here.  Amin is a credit to his race.  At the award ceremony he gives a speech Hattie McDaniel would have been proud of at the 1939 Oscars.  He’s Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s coming to Dinner.  And though you like and admire him, there is also something about this noble doctor that makes you squirm just a little bit.
And then it happens.  After the blast and the hard day in the ER, Amin is called back to the hospital to identify a body; his wife, who is suspected of being the person who set off the bomb that sent all the people to the hospital that he saved.  He’s then taken in for questioning, but eventually released when it seems clear he had no idea that his wife was involved in anything.  The story is then about his trying to understand why his wife would do what she did.
The Attack is not a perfect film.  It has structural issues.  When Amin finds out about his wife, he has to go through the denial stage of death twice.  First he has to accept that his wife is dead, then he has to accept that she did what the authorities claim she did.  This slows the pacing down a bit because until he does that, he can’t go on his Citizen Kane/Mask of Dimitrios quest of going from person to person to find the answers he needs   The result is a middle section that tends to stall for awhile.   But the forward momentum soon recovers, grabbing you like the first part of the movie does, refusing to let go. 
Amin is played by Ali Suliman who gives a masterful and deeply empathetic performance as the beleaguered doctor.  By the end, his character is abandoned by everyone, both the Palestinians whose cause is not his cause, and the Israelis who claimed they would never desert him, but eventually make him realize that he will always be a Palestinian to them.
The Attack is a movie that should be seen.  Oblivion is one that should not.
Tell me what you think.
For more reviews, check out my blog at http://howardcasner.blogspot.com
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