Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Morgan Freeman
Ah, that smile. The only thing more annoying about Tom Cruise than his 1,000 watt grin and his everything else is that, beyond the craziness, couch-jumping and weird, constipated sprint, he’s very good at his job. Great even.
While he’s no Daniel Day Lewis in terms of losing himself in a role (he’ll never be able to not be “Tom Cruise” onscreen) he’s more than up to classing up any sort of broad action fare.
Oblivion is not broad action fare. Far from it, Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi flick is as thoughtful as blockbusters go; a story of love, loss, alien robots and mysterious girls springing straight from a dream.
Cruise stars as Jack Harper. The last drone repairman on a post alien invasion-Earth that has been ravaged by a nuclear war. His memory wiped for security reasons, he and his partner/lover/co-worker, Vika (Andrea Riseborough) keep tech ticking over on the planet as the final few resources can be sucked out of the place and sent to humanity’s new home on one of Saturn’s moons. As the Cruiser so succinctly puts it, “we won the war but lost the planet”.
With the people all gone, only a few aliens, Scavs, remain, interrupting water harvesting and generally breaking anything they can get their hands on. With just two weeks before their mission ends and Vika and Jack can head off to Saturn to be reunited with both their memories and species, things take an unsettling turn when a bunch of humans in hibernation pods crashland – one of whom, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), Jack sees every night in a recurring dream.
And things just get stranger from there.
Where Oblivion falls down is that it never really fully capitalises on the fantastic idea behind its story. There was an opportunity to make a sci-fi on a par with recent high-water marks for the genre, Solaris or Moon, but instead matters tip almost inevitably into futuristic action drama and leave some of the broader, knottier questions unanswered.
That said it’s still a cut above a lot of other recent dross. Cruise is excellent as Harper. He gives life to a character that could easily have been Wall-E with a gun and his mounting confusion over the appearance of Julia and the Scavs real motives in staying on Earth is intriguing rather than irritating.
While slightly underused given their talents, Riseborough and Kurylenko also make a strong showing in what is, for the most part, a three-person show. The amount of screentime Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau get in the film is roughly the same as they have in the trailer.
It might not be perfect but it’s still nice to see some honest to goodness science fiction (or at least a reasonable Hollywood effort at such) given a good cast and a sizable budget.