Saturday 26 July 2014

Films: Ice Soldiers (2013), and Oblivion (2013)

The Canadian SF thriller Ice Soldiers received a favourable write-up in the last edition of Interzone so it duly went on my watch list. It begins fifty years in the past with a commercial plane, carrying three genetically modified Soviet super-soldiers, crashing in the Canadian Arctic. The soldiers survive but then disappear. Switch to the present day, and an academic who has devoted his life to researching this incident is accompanying an oil exploration team in the same region, trying to discover what happened to the soldiers. Needless to say, he finds more than he had expected.

What happens next is fairly predictable, resulting in a running battle with much murder and mayhem before the end. That isn't to say that the film isn't worth watching: it grips the attention from start to finish. It is strong on the wintry atmosphere of the region and, by the standards of typical Hollywood action films, it is quietly understated and restrained in its handling of the straightforward plot. There is just one (over-long) vehicle chase and only a few small explosions, with no CGI that I noticed. Dominic Purcell makes a good fist of the principal role, aided by Adam Beach who provides a dash of humour.

It isn't particularly memorable, but is well enough done to merit a viewing.


I had read rather lukewarm opinions of Oblivion so my expectations weren't that great, but I was pleasantly surprised. The date is 2077 and Earth is a very different place, devastated by an alien attack sixty years earlier that had destroyed the Moon and destabilised the planet. The war had been won at a terrible cost and the few survivors are gradually being transferred to Titan, via a huge space station in orbit above the Earth. Meanwhile, the Earth's oceans are being slowly drained by vast fusion generators, to provide power for colonising Titan.

The generators need maintenance, as do the flying drones whose job is to defend them from the Scavengers – small alien machines still on the planet. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Vika (Andrea Riseborough) are a maintenance team based in a hi-tech living pod above the surface. They have been there for five years, but their memories of the past had been erased as a security precaution in case they were captured by the Scavengers.

Jack is a troubled man, though. His dreams are filled with incidents before the invasion involving a woman (Olga Kurylenko) whom he is sure he knows – but this makes no sense to him. He is also unhappy with the move to Titan and believes that humanity should stay on Earth, parts of which are still worth living in.

I can't say more without spoilers, but suffice to say that all is not as it seems, and Harper has to cope with one revelation after another as the plot twists and turns. The story is original and intriguing, requiring a higher than usual degree of concentration to keep up; the pace accelerates steadily; and the CGI is spectacular. So unless you are tired of SF action movies or allergic to Tom Cruise (one of which is entirely understandable) Oblivion is well worth watching.


Fred said...

I started this film several months ago, but gave up on it. I think my aversion to Tom Cruise was the major cause.

I guess I didn't get far enough into it to see there was something more to the film than the usual CGI shootups.

I might give it another shot and try to stay with it a bit longer.

Anthony G Williams said...

I think you should, Fred, there's a lot more to it than initially appears. In fact, very little is what it seems to be.

Fred said...

OK, I will pretend that the major character is not Tom Cruise but a Tom Cruise lookalike.

I'll give Ice Soldiers a viewing also.

Anthony G Williams said...

Do post your views of these!

Fred said...

I will keep that in mind.

Fred said...

I just finished watching _Oblivion_. I managed to get through it this time.

You are right. It is a better film than it started out to be. I just wish someone other than Great Stone Face had been the lead. Throughout I kept thinking what a much better film this would have been if Morgan Freeman had been Jack. He would have given the character far more depth than the comic book surface portrayal by TC.

Anthony G Williams said...

The choices of those who decide casting often puzzles me. I suspect that suitability for the part or even acting ability rarely feature among their top priorities.

Fred said...

I suspect that Tom Cruise as the star will bring in more people than Morgan Freeman will, even though Freeman's a far superior actor.