When the Tom Cruise show hits cinema screens, you know there is going to be a gloassy finish to whatever you see. Oblivion is a wannabe sci-fi epic set on a scorched Earth with Cruise playing Jack Harper – one of two remaining humans ensuring the planet’s evacuation to Jupiter moon Titan is successful. Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski adapts his own graphic novel (published to coincide with the movie release) giving Cruise plenty of time to look broodingly troubled and action-man cool in equal measure, but ultimately the time required for much-needed exposition is dropped in favour of lavish set pieces leaving a baffling climax.
In 2077 Jack Harper and his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the sole humans living on Earth, well, in a floating home far about the surface with an outdoor swimming pool and landing pad for Cruise’s aircraft. Following the winning of a war with aliens who invaded the planet, they are overseeing the collection of Earth’s resources to be taken to Titan. Their job is simple: Victoria gets commands from her superior and works with Jack to ensure the many drones protecting the resource farming machines from attack from alien scavengers (scavs). All seems to be going well with just five days until they get to leave Earth and join the rest of the surviving humans on Titan, however Jack continues to have recurring dreams featuring an unknown woman (Olga Kurylenko) he seems to recall from a time far in the past.
All is not what it seems in this sci-fi thriller, and Kosinski revels in the opportunity to drip feed us information and mis-information while we marvel at the desolate yet beautifully-rendered setting. Jack flies over mountains and famous landmarks, then explores some more on his motorbike as we learn about their current situation on Earth. Then things get interesting when a ship crash lands with the woman from Jack’s dreams among the crew and he comes across a band of humans led by Morgan Freeman who seem convinced Jack is the key to finally ending the fight against the aliens.
All is not what it seems in this sci-fi thriller.
Kosinski did a fantastic job with the visuals of Tron: Legacy, yet suffered at the hands of a convoluted story geared too much towards providing impressive set pieces rather than giving a coherent viewing experience. The same is true of Oblivion, only this time he is the author of his own story, though he didn’t write the screenplay, which is telling. Explanations are half-given and questions linger in the mind after the credits in a frustrating fashion. He is heavy-handed in some of his hints at the start too – you’re likely to have guessed many of the twists long before they happen.
And yet Cruise is very watchable in Oblivion, as are his co-stars who all commit fully to Kosinski’s vision of the future. The final reveal is woefully contrived giving very little pay off for patiently waiting to learn what’s really happening, however the action is well put together, the film looks sumptuous and it will no doubt win over fans of sci-fi and Cruise. Meanwhile Kosinski needs to find a movie to make that has more to recommend it than the visuals or he won’t be so lucky to have the star attractions that save Oblivion from being dismissed as a pulpy b-movie.