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Oblivion (AF)


Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Oblivion is rather like a studio starlet from the Golden Age of Hollywood. It looks terrific, does whatever the director tells it to but has surprisingly little that’s absolutely coherent or really new to say for itself.

The special effects that establish the setting are superb – a ravaged post-apocalyptic Earth in 2077 where fragments of New York poke out of the desolate sands, sinister ‘Scavengers’ prowl and giant hydropods suck vital material out of the seas to pass on to Saturn’s largest moon Titan where the remains of Mankind have relocated.

Technician Tom Cruise remains on Earth living with colleague Andrea Riseborough (with whom he enjoys energetic sex in their swimming pool) in an enviably lush apartment on top of a metal tower and, like Wall-E before him, soars into the skies to shoot down deadly drones bent on destroying the hydropods and keeping an eye for the ‘Scavs’. In between enviable displays of aerial manoeuvres as he attacks drones (clearly his training as a flier in Top Gun 27 years ago paid dividends), Cruise suffers monochrome flashbacks to pre-apocalyptic New York and meeting with a mysterious woman on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. And then he rescues the same woman (Olga Kurylenko) from a crashed spacecraft…

The film, inspired by co-writer/director Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished graphic novel, starts well but, as the plot thickens, the drama dilutes and the story goes every which way including loose as Kosininski frequently references other science fiction films. My favourite – Cruise floating weightless in a spacecraft in unmistakable homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But magnificent movie magic isn’t really enough to disguise the fact that the show runs out of steam in the second half, wastes Morgan Freeman as a bearded, sunglass-sporting, cigar-smoking ‘Scav’. What’s left – and it may be enough for filmgoers in search of easy-to-absorb moviemaking, are plenty of visual thrills and action and enough plot twists to make a coiled cobra seem straight.

Cruise’s fans should be happy, especially if they enjoy seeing his impressively buff (for a man of 50) torso, which he shows off at every possible opportunity, adding a couple of shower scenes for good measure. He sports seven o’clock shadow, too, to underline his manliness and succeeds (apart from one unfortunate shot in silhouette when, lowering his head, he exhibits something that looks remarkable like the beginning of a double chin). The dramatic demands of his role aren’t particularly massive and he meets them adequately.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
125 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 11 Apr 2013