Oblivion Review

image In the late 21st century, aliens attack Earth and, rather maliciously, destroy the moon. Humans are evacuated, but a few remain to shoot any extraterrestrial life forms (Scavengers) still on the planet. Two of those final people are Tom Cruise and Andre Riseborough, the focus of Oblivion. While Riseborough stays in a futuristic, floating home, Cruise embarks on adventures around Earth’s abandoned scenery; he stares longingly at any nature he finds, and is haunted by memories of a black-and-white New York he never inhabited. (Those flashbacks don't resemble Woody Allen's Manhattan.) When he sees a fish, he asks, “Will you miss me when I’m gone?” It doesn't respond. The stark emptiness is stunning on an IMAX screen, although it’s not exactly WALL-E. There’s never much sense of loneliness, which I was hoping would be the film’s strength. When Olga Kurylenko appears in flashbacks, it’s inevitable she’ll appear in person. After teasing the idea of the last man on Earth, it’s more of a sci-fi love triangle, further tangled by a twisty plot and interplanetary politics. Bizarrely, Oblivion never becomes the character drama you’d expect. It’s certainly best when it’s close; the opening act contains shades of poetry, with Cruise occasionally wandering lost and alone with his thoughts. But you never learn much about him. Without much depth, it’s hard to see beyond Tom Cruise as Tom Cruise, the Hollywood actor. Riseborough does better as his loyal, miserable partner, left alone in her space home, but much of the drama is based upon unknown back stories and discovering wiped memories. That makes it harder to empathise with the leads who don’t exuberate that much emotional energy. When Cruise and Riseborough share an early conversation, there’s promise of a fraught relationship full of pathos, frayed by solitude. Instead, she veers outside for a nude dive into a floating swimming pool, with lighting hiding body parts that would shift the film’s certificate. image That inertia is partly from inconsistent pacing that both wants to challenge its audience with a minimal screenplay, while desperate to display its fancy toys. The fancy space equipment is striking, particularly the surreal sight of Cruise flying a bubbleship across barren land that faintly echoes Earth. Director Joseph Kosinski seems wary of revealing too much early on, so the second half is overloaded with twists – many should be familiar to anyone who’s kept in touch with the last decade’s sci-fi classics. You sense that it began as an ambitious project that somewhere during production became more concerned with shiny looks and sleek surfaces. Missing an opportunity to be a poignant drama, Oblivion is a cold, pristine sci-fi; occasionally beautiful, but rarely with a line of dialogue that isn’t exposition or pretending to have a heart.

Overall

4

out of 10

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