I really wasn’t expecting much from Oblivion – a big-budget, soulless sci-fi with Tom Cruise in every scene. Ok, so yes, it was big budget, and yes, Tom Cruise was in every scene. But soulless? Surprisingly not.
Cruise plays drone mechanic Jack Harper, who, apart from his "effective" partner Vick (Andrea Riseborough), is the only person left on earth, after an alien invasion 60 years previous destroyed the planet. Everyone else has been shipped to a moon just off Jupiter, while Jack and Vick are left to keep watch and repel any enemies, including the 'scavs' that roam the earth.
Jack and Vick live in an uber-cool skytower complete with a sleek swimming pool and a garage for Jack’s very impressive looking bubbleship and his moto-bike – both allowing for some very Top Gunesque moments.
Jack and Vick's relationship is mysteriously stilted. Sometime co-workers and sometime lovers, they live in an almost robotic trance, working for their hi-diddly-ho boss in the sky, who issues them with orders ever-so-nicely via video screen on a daily basis.
Vick never leaves their base, instead keeping tabs on Jack and making sure they follow each of their instructions to the letter. Meanwhile, Jack flies about the earth taking in the spectacularly vast scenery that director Joseph Kosinski has created. Most of these scenes were shot in Iceland and have been digitally enhanced to create a rolling land that has remnants of famous landmarks popping up here and there.
For the first 40 minutes or so of the film, Vick and Jack do pretty much everything by the book, apart from Jack’s odd visit to his secret place of serenity. Oh, and his recurring dreams of a woman in a pre-apocalyptic New York.
In the second act, the mystery woman – Julia (Olga Kurylenko) - literally falls from the sky and Jack is left struggling to figure out what her appearance means.
Plenty of explosions, acrobatic flying, cross-country motorcycling and, of course, the obligatory Tom Cruise run ensue as Jack battles to put the pieces of his story together.
I saw Oblivion on an IMAX screen, and if you have the opportunity try and do the same. The visuals are incredible and it is hard to tell what is real and what is CGI – Kosinski has done a superb job here. This is only his second outing as a director, and like his debut, Tron, he certainly knows how to put an action- packed movie together for the big screen.
Tom Cruise is the ultimate action man in this movie, and what’s even better is knowing that he did practically all the stunts himself means pretty much the same for Olga, too. And yes, he really is in almost every scene, with plenty of close-ups for the hardcore Tom Cruise fans – there are even a few shirtless moments.
But while everything about this movie looks fantastic, the story unfortunately is underdeveloped, especially in the second half, making it drag out unnecessarily. There are plenty of moments the scriptwriters tease us with storyline gems, but they just don’t go there.
Also, Morgan Freeman is desperately underused. When you have a legend like Freeman in your movie, you should write extra scenes or more voiceover just to give him more screentime. While it was interesting to see him in a 'baddie' role, it wasn't a 100% good fit for me.
Oblivion definitely needed a little more substance, but is definitely worth a watch on the big screen for its spectacular stunts. You might just have to put some of the story together in your head yourself.