Film review: Oblivion (12A)


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The Independent Culture

When your last two movies (Rock of Ages, Jack Reacher) have underwhelmed at the box-office, it might be thought risky to have your next one called Oblivion.

At 50, though, Tom Cruise still looks in pretty good shape, and you see nothing haunted in those eyes. Which is just as well, because he's got to save the planet again in this sci-fi adventure thriller adapted by Joseph Kosinski from his own graphic novel.

The date is 2077, and Earth has been reduced to a necropolis of ashen plains and ruined landmarks following a catastrophic war with aliens. Cruise plays Jack Harper, an ex-marine deputed to mop up crashed drones and ward off any hostile "scavengers" lurking about. He's partnered in this endeavour by a suave controller named Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), with whom he shares a fabulously sleek space-crib, all glass, chrome and immaculate surfaces.

Indeed, for the first 45 minutes Oblivion is a two-hander, epically unpeopled and creepily sterile. All survivors have had their memory wiped before they relocate wholesale to Titan, a moon of Saturn. But Jack keeps having weird flashbacks to pre-war earth and a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko), who duly shows up to prove that two's company, three's a problem.

The film is an amalgam itself scavenged from parts of Total Recall, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien and even a pinch of Top Gun, with Cruise reprising his flyboy moves inside a superfast helicopter thingy (the technical term).

As a piece of narrative, though, it's portentous, sluggish and fatally ungripping. Morgan Freeman and hunk du jour Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Headhunters) arrive late but fail to electrify a clapped-out vehicle, an Us vs Them scenario of no great originality. I was mesmerised by Andrea Riseborough's porcelain complexion, magnified spookily by the gigantic IMAX screen, but even her lustre can't carry this laboured yarn on its own.