"Oblivion" is a stunning sci-fi thriller that transports you to another world: Earth in the not two-distant future.

The year is 2077, intones Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) in the prologue. An alien invasion has made the planet uninhabitable, he tells us. Surviving humans have fled to Triton, a moon of Saturn.

Jack Harper is a kind of space-age mechanic. Only, instead of repairing cars, he repairs drones, which have been developed into all-purpose super-fast, super-lethal security forces. The drones are like a three-dimensional Pac-Man and they destroy any targets in their path.

Jack is stationed with Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who is his space repairs partner, in a very futuristic house atop a mountain on earth. Victoria is at the home's command central when Jack is on assignment.

On a huge video system, she maps his travels, alerts him to dangerous places, and communicates with a mysterious person named Sally (Melissa Leo), who seems to be some sort of commander of the whole space military operations.

Jack pilots a futuristic "bubble-ship," which is similar to a helicopter, except it moves at the speed of a jet plane and maneuvers like a back-mounted jet-pack.

While on the trail of a drone, Jack encounters "Scavs," the nickname for scavengers, a rebel-like force bunkered down and led by Beech (Morgan Freeman). He also discovers NASA astronauts whose spaceship has crashed. He rescues one of them, Julia (Olga Kurylenko).

In the post-apocalyptic landscape, we glimpse bits and pieces of the Empire State Building, New York City bridges and other landmarks. Nothing is ever really explained.

Neither are the flashbacks that Jack has, which include, a la "An Affair to Remember," a woman he meets at the top of the Empire State Building.

Joseph Kosinski ("Tron: Legacy," 2010) directs from a screenplay by Michael deBruyn and Karl Gajdusek ("Trespass," 2011), based on Kosinski's original graphic novel.

Kosinski has created a whole new world. I saw the film in the Imax format and the cinematography is truly breath-taking. The computer-generated imagery is blended seamlessly with the live action. The special effects are superb. There are several gripping spaceship and drones chase sequences.

Tom Cruise is fine as Jack Harper, the kind of thoughtful action hero he does so well at portraying.

Morgan Freeman lends his gravitas to the proceedings. He makes everything seem profound.

Olga Kurylenko provides a striking screen presence. Andrea Riseborough has a good rapport with Cruise. Melissa Leo, even in grainy video transmission, makes a powerful impression.

"Oblivion" poses some intriguing premises as to where the human race and warfare may be heading, the latter especially in terms of drones. And the matter of clones is also introduced. Talk about identity theft.

"Oblivion" is the thinking person's sci-fi thriller. It's worth checking out. And you may be thinking about this movie long afterward, trying to figure it out.

"Oblivion," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality-nudity; Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery; Run time: 2 hrs., four mins.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Oblivion" was filmed in California, Iceland, New York City, and Raleigh Studios and Celtic Media Centre, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Box Office, May 1: "Iron Man 3" set a record for the second-highest United States box office opening, second only to another Marvel Comics blockbuster, last year's "The Avengers" ($207.4 million opening), with $175.3 million, putting the hurt on "Pain & Gain," which dropped back to No. 2, way back with $7.6 million, $33.9 million. two weeks, and "42" holding at No. 3, $6.2 million, $78.3 million, four weeks;

4. "Oblivion," $5.7 million, $75.9 million, three weeks; 5. "The Croods," $4.2 million, $168.7 million, seven weeks; 6. "The Big Wedding," $3.8 million, $14.2 million, two weeks; 7."Mud," $2.1 million, $5.1 million, two weeks; 8. "Oz the Great and Powerful," $1.8 million, $228.5 million, nine weeks; 9. "Scary Movie 5," $1.4 million, $29.6 million, four weeks; 10. "The Place Beyond the Pines, $1.3 million, $18.6 million, six weeks;

Unreel, May 10:

"The Great Gatsby," PG-13: F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic of American literature, gets the Baz Lurhmann treatment. Look for the director's trademark modern touch on the romantic-drama, an interpretation of the Roaring '20s Long Island world of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire).

"Peeples," PG-13: Meanwhile, another party's going on nearby, out in the Hamptons. And Wade Walker (Craig Robinson) crashes the Peeples annual reunion and asks to marry Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington). David Alan Grier, Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles are on board for the fun in the comedy. Tina Gordon Chism directs in her feature film debut, produced by Tyler Perry.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com and the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email PaulWillistein pwillistein@tnonline.com.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes