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Oblivion - Review

Oblivion

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

JOSEPH Kosinski’s Oblivion is a visually spectacular, technically dazzling slice of sci-fi that, crucially, struggles to engage on that all-important emotional level.

Taking its cues from a number of similarly themed genre entries, it also ultimately pays the price for glossing over the big issues it introduces but never really takes the time to explore.

Set in a future where Earth has been attacked by an alien race and decimated, and where humanity’s survivors have relocated to a new home, the film follows Jack (Tom Cruise) and his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) as they look after the machinery being employed to harvest the planet’s resources from attacks by surviving members of the invading aliens.

Jack, though, slowly becomes convinced that there is more going on than he’s being told and is haunted by dreams of a woman (Olga Kurylenko) and a life he has neither met nor experienced. When he comes to the rescue of that woman, however, he’s compelled to investigate further and uncovers some shocking truths about his reason for being and current existence.

Kosinski’s film plays out on a vast scale and certainly goes for broke in terms of spectacle. But while toying with themes of identity, humanity, freedom and the nature of existence (and one man’s place in it), the film never really gets to grips with them in the way that better genre entries (Blade Runner, Wall-E, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon) do.

Hence, what appears to be an initially intelligent and complex film is only really superficial and fails to make the most of the possibilities offered by its strong cast.

Kosinski, for his part, must take a lot of the blame as his priorities lean towards the visual more than the cerebral. His film looks spectacular and is at its best when occupying big screens (where M83’s soundtrack also proves most effective).

His use of Icelandic locations imbues the film (and his version of Earth) with a distinct look, which is both desolate and grey, yet hypnotic and beautiful. It’s easy to get lost in the world that Kosinski has created early on, while his use of technology (especially the drones that Jack is employed to protect and fix) is first-rate. The film does impress visually and on an effects level.

But while the mysteries it contains at first intrigue, and the questions it poses have relevance, the more things get revealed, the less interesting they become. And this is where things fall apart.

Cruise’s central character suffers the most, emerging as a little too bland and uninteresting to warrant too much sympathy, while Kurylenko fares little better as one side of a love triangle that is never really afforded the complexity her character deserves.

Riseborough, too, is discarded too quickly once her character really becomes interesting, while Morgan Freeman (barring a great entry) is utterly wasted in a role that feels more about explaining things than really giving his character anything to do.

Come the big finale, when sacrifices are inevitably made and the truth is properly revealed, Oblivion has lost its ability to grip. The result, for all its visual style, underwhelms.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 126mins
UK Release Date: April 10, 2013