IF planet Earth was decimated by a series of earthquakes and tsunamis, followed by an alien invasion designed to exterminate the pockets of human resistance, you’d stake money on Tom Cruise emerging unscathed from the melee.
The 50-year-old actor has survived three divorces, a risible Irish accent in Far & Away and the very public humiliation of leaping around on Oprah Winfrey’s sofa with his box office cache and nice-guy reputation intact.
Cruise has repeatedly foregone stunt doubles to perform death-defying feats on camera, including clambering up the world’s tallest skyscraper for the most recent Mission: Impossible and riding a motorcycle at high speed during a bull run for Knight & Day.
When extra-terrestrials demand, “Take us to your leader”, more than likely it will be Cruise charming the invaders into submission.
In Oblivion, a ponderous post-apocalyptic thriller based on the graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski and Arvid Nelson, Cruise is one of the last men standing after planet Earth is reduced to a radiation-poisoned wasteland by a pernicious race called Scavs.
Survivors have been evacuated to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, leaving behind small teams to protect the giant machines that extract vital resources to power mankind’s new home.
Drone maintenance officer Jack Harper (Cruise) and his partner, tech operator Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), are two weeks away from retirement on Titan when he rescues an astronaut (Olga Kurylenko) from a crashed space shuttle.
This gung-ho act, in direct violation of orders from controller Sally (Melissa Leo), brings the former Marine into contact with a grizzled resistance leader, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), and his right-hand man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
“It’s time to learn the truth,” booms Malcolm, hinting at a convoluted conspiracy that provides Cruise with the perfect excuse to perform impressive acrobatics amid a blitzkrieg of expensive pyrotechnics and digital effects. Oblivion looks stunning, especially on a giant IMAX screen, with a lightly colour-bleached palette that accentuates cold metal greys and blues.
Director Kosinski, who previously made TRON: Legacy, orchestrates the pivotal action sequences with breathless aplomb, including an aerial chase in a spacecraft that gimbals at stomach-churning speed.
Looks aren’t everything, though, and the script’s philosophical musings about humanity and self-sacrifice are almost as flimsy as the central love triangle that fails to ignite the emotional afterburners for a slam-bang finale. Cruise’s portentous voiceover is matched by an orchestral score. Freeman is wasted in a malnourished supporting role, while Riseborough and Kurylenko shed perfectly shaped tears on cue.
My rating 7/10
Oblivion is now showing at Empire cinema, Robin Park, Wigan - book your tickets on 08714 714 714.