Director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is visually spectacular. Barely a second goes by without explosions or dramatic scenes of a war-torn earth. This world, originally created in Kosinski’s mind as a graphic novel, hasn’t been inhabited by humans for sixty years due to an alien invasion. Sweeping vistas of destruction reveal why Jack (Tom Cruise) and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have taken to the skies for safety. It is from their cloudy haven that they attempt to fix drones sent out to recover mankind.
Shielded from the pandemonium below, they exist in a sterile environment, reminiscent of a floating iPad, pure white and meticulously clean. Jack’s romantic gesture of flowers is met with disgust at the toxins it could pollute their false utopia with. If this is an attempt at infusing Cruise’s character with charisma then it’s lacklustre. Kosinski’s aim was to keep his cast small, yet in between the fight scenes we never feel empathy. One feels no compassion for the characters even when their lives are in danger. This lack of depth means they are as anonymous and unlikeable as the mechanical drones that are constantly buzzing across our retinas.
The film is awash with technology, a forever gun-toting Cruise has a plethora of gadgets: spaceships, motorbikes, heat sensors. The filmmakers seem keen to stuff the film full of high-tech apparatus. This is a case of Cruise doing what Cruise does best: the all-American posturing hero, and unsurprisingly for an American disaster movie, despite the entire world being desecrated by aliens (resembling futuristic orcs), the only heart-wrenching memories of the pre-war world are of New York.
However, there are moments that thrill. Suspicion mounts as the audience are unable to lay their eyes on the fearsome Scav aliens for the first half. Fear of the unknown is not to be underestimated in sci-fi! Also be prepared for a tumultuous turn when Morgan Freeman, a renegade earthling, turns Jack’s world upside down with his revelations.
Sadly the film relies heavily on cliches and one-liners designed to have impact: obviously his spaceship is called “Odyssey”, and of course Jack and his wife (Olga Kurylenko) talk of growing old together beside a beautiful lake. The dialogue is sparsely predictable. Sayings are drummed into us from the offset, such as Jack’s notion of “home”. This makes it tiresome when Cruise finally pronounces “I’m Jack Harper and I’m home”.
Our rating: ***