**** out of 5
Moon marks a rare and welcome departure from the majority of science fiction films. It does away with the hi-tech, CGI laden approach so often favoured and instead focuses on the characters, or in this case character. Set in the unspecified future, it revolves solely around Sam Bell (literally embodied by Sam Rockwell), a Lunar Industries employee based on the far side of the moon who mans an automated mining base responsible for harvesting a new clean energy source, Helium-3. Towards the end of his tenure, and having been in basic solitary confinement for almost three years, Sam begins to suffer hallucinations and soon subsequently finds himself with somebody new to talk to, other than the untrustworthy mobile computer GERTY (voiced with sinister suave by Kevin Spacey).
Moon is a thoroughly rewarding and interesting addition to the genre, and invokes visual and tonal comparisons to both Tarkovsky’s Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as more recently, Danny Boyle’s nightmarish space-thriller Sunshine. Yet in its fundamental themes and questions, Moon recalls both the father of modern sci-fi, Blade Runner, and the recent Battlestar Galactica reboot. Like these launch pads of the field, it asks one of the oldest quandaries man has – what does it mean to be human. And like them, it uses a genre so often associated with the future and technological advancement to try and answer this question that has roots so deep in human history. This duality of old and new, past and future is clear throughout; never more so than with GERTY, which, although an incredibly advanced robot, has a hand scribbled post-it note attached to it, and a ‘face’ screen displaying instant messenger-esque emoticons. Furthermore, there is an earthy functionality about Sam’s surroundings and although the moon base is clean and crisp, you get the feeling that everything works just to its capacity, no more or no less, no hint of flashiness or unnecessary glistening chrome panels. No sparkling rainbow of multi-coloured control buttons. Thus although set in outer space and off into the future, Jones keeps his film grounded very much in the present, and even the past.
The stripped back aesthetic mirrors the raw and at times tender performance of Sam Rockwell, who gives an outstanding tour de force, taking the challenge of almost sole acting responsibility firmly in his ever growing stride. Director Duncan Jones handles his debut feature with great skill and intelligence, and has created a superbly strong and thoughtful psychological drama, that whilst low on action, is undoubtedly high in ideas.