It's 2077 and sky-dwelling repairman (and remorseless mercenary) Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) has the job of servicing a fleet of lethal drones that protect vast rigs extracting water from the wasteland which is Earth. Decades before, mankind headed into space when the planet was laid bare after aliens obliterated the moon. Sent back, Jack carries out his tasks efficiently... until a craft crash-lands and he's inexplicably drawn to the sole survivor (Olga Kurylenko). Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski has crafted a visually astonishing and emotionally resonant sci-fi fable with Cruise at his best in an otherworldly ménage à trois with Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough.
For the first hour or so this gorgeously-shot sci-fi thriller combines the sort of retina-overloading visuals and compellingly downbeat narrative that Prometheus promised...but never delivered.
The commanding presence of Tom Cruise is a perfect fit for Jack Harper, a maverick space warrior (and robotics handyman) who ensures a fleet of killer drones are kept lethally airworthy.
They're protecting vast derricks that suck up water from the wilderness that is Earth (after the moon was smashed to bits by an unknown invader) and sends the precious natural resource back to a colony of human survivors on one of Saturn's moons.
It's a risky business and Jack - as he hurtles through the old calcified canyons of a shattered New York - is safely guided by his partner Victoria (Riseborough), who surveys the wrecked planet from a hi-tech eyrie in the clouds.
However, after a couple of close shaves on the barren surface, he becomes convinced that the alien invaders - the "scavs" - who hide out in the ruins are not seeking to kill him...but to capture him.
And they get their chance when he zeroes in on a crash scene and rescues Russian cosmonaut Julia (former Bond girl Kurylenko) from his own drones and whisks her back to cloudbase.
Few films have managed to imagine a ruined Earth as captivatingly as Kosinski and the broken planet inhabited by Jack is a stunning wasteland (Iceland, actually) punctuated by the odd familiar Big Apple icon - the top of the Empire State building, the Queensboro Bridge.
Before settling into sci-fi formula, the story is genuinely riveting as Jack realises that the so-called memory wipe wasn't merely for security but a far more insidious purpose while his erotic relationship with Victoria is convincingly played.
OK, so the plot owes a big favour to sci-fi blockbusters from Independence Day to I Am Legend but Cruise's stellar charisma plus strong support from Riseborough and Kurylenko make the personal facet of a cleverly switch-backing story more than merely incidental.
Morgan Freeman makes the best of an underwritten role even if there's a disappointingly derivative stand-off but - after the major disappointment that was Sir Ridley's Alien prequel - this is top flight stuff.
Cast yourself into oblivion.