To put it mildly, Earth has seen better days. Sometime in the late 21st Century, a group of aliens have blown up the Moon, causing massive earthquakes and tidal waves on our planet. Then they came down and attacked us while we were at our weakest. Nevertheless, the end of the war saw humans win out at the cost of irradiating the planet beyond repair. Now all surviving humans are either on Titan - one of Saturn's moons - or aboard a giant orbiting spaceship. But we see next-to-none of this, as we're only told about it by Jack (Cruise), one of two people left on the ruined Earth. He and his partner Victoria (Riseborough) are there to repair any broken drones (a truly scary creation once you see them in action). The drones are there to protect the giant water-to-energy reactors that are collecting fuel for the last voyage from Earth to Titan. During a routine drone repair, however, Jack discovers something that will completely destroy everything he has come to believe about Earth and its destruction.
Director Kosinski visually impressed us with his last outing Tron: Legacy, but the plot was more than a little weak. Here, he's telling a story that shoots for the stars, and while he may not reach them, you can't help but be impressed by his ambition. Plot-holes are almost as abundant as the ruined landmarks we see on the screen, and while it leaves some questions nicely, ambiguously unanswered, the questions the movie does answer don't hold up well under scrutiny. But the fact that the story is so huge, and the scale of the tale so epic, you'll forgive it for not always making sense.
In spite of this, as with Tron: Legacy, Oblivion is a marvel to behold. Coupled with the beautiful M83 soundtrack, the imagery that Kosinski comes up with is nothing short of staggering. Bucking the trend of making the apocalypse so depressing, he finds other-worldly levels of beauty within the destruction. Cruise and Riseborough make for a great, edgy pairing, while the later story additions of Kurlyenko and Freeman add successfully to the drama.
Anyone expecting a huge action movie may be disappointed, as Oblivion is one giant science fiction tale that just happens to have some action in it. It wears its obvious references to the likes of Moon, Planet Of The Apes and Independence Day on its sleeve, but by God does it wear them well.
2013's first great blockbuster has arrived.