Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough
SCIENCE fiction buffs watching Tom Cruise’s latest vehicle Oblivion are likely to feel a sense of déjà vu which, given its subject matter, seems oddly fitting.
The film, based on a graphic novel of the same name by director Joseph Kosinski, borrows liberally from hits of decades past as its weaves its complex and action-packed tale.
However, thanks to some eye-catching cinematography and a smattering of unforeseen plot twists, it mostly overcomes its shortcomings to deliver two hours of entertaining futuristic escapism.
Oblivion centres on Jack Harper (Cruise), a predictably dashing and rugged mechanic tasked with rebuilding Earth after a devastating nuclear war.
As the survivors wait on one of Saturn’s moons, Harper and his partner Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) tend to the vast machines that are slowly making the planet inhabitable again. When not reporting back to his eerily breezy commanding officer, Harper who, naturally, is a dab hand with a gun has to fend off the last traces of the alien army that triggered the apocalypse.
Plagued by visions of a mysterious brunette (Olga Kurylenko) and vague memories of a life on Earth before the war, events slowly force him to question the reality of his situation.
From the outset, Oblivion’s premise is reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 hit Total Recall and as the film progresses, its list of creative debts keeps growing. The main theme, that of unreliable memories, harks back to Cruise’s own roles in Vanilla Sky and Minority Report, while later developments contain striking echoes of The Matrix, Independence Day and Planet of the Apes.
It would be uncharitable to say Oblivion steals outright from its forebears, but at times the similarities are noticeable enough to distract from the story.
As with many big-budget blockbusters, the human aspect of the story also leaves something to be desired. Although Cruise’s superficial magnetism makes his character likeable enough, Harper is too two-dimensional to truly care about his predicament.
Yet for all its faults, there’s much to recommend. The action scenes are conducted with panache, including some stunning aerial combat sequences to rival Top Gun or Star Wars, while the central twist is clever without being contrived.
The art direction is likewise superb, with a neat contrast between the sterile colours and harsh lines of Harper’s futuristic abode and the forlorn decay of the abandoned world beneath him.
If you’re looking for a game-changing masterpiece in the Blade Runner mould, Oblivion is likely to disappoint. However, if you can settle for a visually striking and occasionally surprising thrill ride, it’s well worth the price of entry.
Oblivion is showing at the Regal Picturehouse cinema in Boroma Way, Henley. For times and ticket prices, see www.picturehouses.co.uk/henley or telephone 0871 902 5738.