In the year 2525…well, actually 2077, Earth has been decimated by an alien war. The majority of the human race has taken refuge on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. But there are a few humans left—people like Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), whose job is to maintain drones that harvest our blue orb’s remaining resources and destroy stragglers from the extraterrestrial army. The duo is an “effective team,” as they report each morning to mission commander Sally (a delightfully patronizing Melissa Leo). Yet Jack’s frequent dreams about a mystery woman (Olga Kurylenko) he may have once known hint at trouble on the horizon.
And so trouble comes, though we’ll refrain from getting into specifics. Suffice to say that Oblivion’s story is a skeletal patchwork of sci-fi cinema touchstones (a little Matrix here, a little Planet of the Apes there) onto which Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski and ace cinematographer Claudio Miranda graft some truly stunning sights: The IMAX-sized landscape shots of the ruined third rock from the sun—skyscrapers jutting out from tectonically shifted sand dunes—look like they could have popped off a vintage space-opera paperback. And one gorgeous sequence, in which a drone invades Jack and Victoria’s Architectural Digest–ready sky loft, has some of the pulp-poetic charge for which Kosinski seems to be constantly striving. Mostly, though, it’s all gleaming, glittery surfaces; the talent on display is great enough that you wish this sturm und drang blockbuster went a little deeper.
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