August 06, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of Oblivion, by Joseph Kosinski

Oblivion is the second feature by Joseph Kosinski (his first one was Tron: Legacy) who, beside his small experience in directing, managed to take benefit from the opportunity to direct he received in Hollywood. Generally speaking, I  don't like sci-fi movies, I am not a Tom Cruise's fan neither I like the DP who worked in Oblivion, but it was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I wanted to watch something easy-going.

The plot.  Tom Cruise is a commander whose memory has been erased and assigned to protection and reparation of drones on a post war earth. He start to question his mission and the truth he is been told.

Cinematography: Claudio Miranda
Camera: Sony CineAlta F65, Red Epic
Lenses: Zeiss Master Primes, Fujinon Premier
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: F65 RAW, Redcode RAW
Film Stock: -

The man behind Oblivion`s cinematography is Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) with whom director Joseph Kosinski already worked in Tron: Legacy. He chose the brand new Sony CineAlta F65, a marvellous camera which is probably the best digital camera on the market at the moment, and the Red Epic for the aerial shots, probably for weight matters. Miranda is very good with light: Oblivion is full of beautiful images but his work in this film cannot really be considered cinematography if for cinematography we intend not only the art and technique of making a movie by the choice of camera, lenses, exposure, formats, lights, etc., but also as a way of communicating something trough light, shadows and colours.

As he did with Life of Pi (by the way, I'll repeat it one more time: his Oscar for best cinematography was disrespectful towards the brilliant job of his fellow cinematographers), he used lot of Chroma and created the light mood in post production; and he is very good at that, probably the best but there's not a single image in Oblivion lighted to visually tell the story, to enhance or contrast the emotions and psychology of characters, apart perhaps from the cold and neutral atmosphere of the scenes in the floating station. Everything is lit in a very sensationalist way, to make the audience wow for the stunning images but they are never lit with a concept behind them.

The extensive use of wide angle lenses has no other intention that showing the spectacular landscapes created in post production, while telephoto lenses are used for some scenes where the relationship between Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko emerges, and also for close shots of Andrea Risenborough which are also made with a large aperture resulting in a very small depth of field, something not quite coherent given the place where she works: a glass office in a floating station up in the sky and above the clouds... That means huge luminance: how´s the depth of field of your eyes on a very sunny day in a beach without sunglasses?

The scenes which didn't go trough an heavy post production process are really contrasty, again with no actual meaning, while the scenes of Tom Cruise's reminiscences are in black and white which is a simple, too easy and obsolete mean of lighting and treating remembrances in a film.

Claudio Miranda is a good cinematographer: he is second to none in digital cinema and I admire him for his audacity of shooting with the last camera on the market (He did it with the F65 for Oblivion and he did it with other cameras in his others features); Oblivion has stunning and beautiful images that make the general audience amaze, but specialized audience need a lot more.

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