There is a heck of a lot to like about Moon. It is a very confident debut by director Duncan Jones, which boasts retro-cool set design, coherent storytelling, and an excellent performance by the consistently wonderful Sam Rockwell. Despite knowing nods to sci-fi classics like 2001 and Solaris, Jones has created a truly original piece that uses its revisionist detailing to subvert generic trends and in many cases enliven them. Moon also manages to mix conventional narrative with challenging concepts, whilst remaining an accessible and enthralling picture for those uninitiated with science fiction cinema.
Moon is set in the near future as Earth suffers in the midst of a massive energy crisis. Helium3, a source of alternative power is discovered in abundance on the Moon’s surface where it is mined and shot back to Earth. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has the lonely job as the sole human inhabitant of the Moon, responsible for maintaining the harvesting of H3 for Lunar Industries. The film begins with Sam only two weeks from the end of his three-year contract and very much ready to return to his wife and daughter on Earth. Cue extreme complications.
It takes a great actor to carry a film by himself, and Sam Rockwell is exactly the man for the job. He is in fine form here, but then again always is. Another steadfast asset is Clint Mansell who contributes a marvellous score, perfectly suited to the isolation of the Moons dark side. Nathan Parker’s script is intricately plotted yet stays clear and interesting, perhaps only loosing its momentum slightly towards the end. The film also benefits from Kevin Spacey’s contribution as the voice of Gerty, a HAL 9000-esque talking robot who expresses feeling through constantly changing emoticons and is responsible for Sam’s safekeeping.
All these elements would be useless without the hands of a competent director and Jones certainly rises to the occasion, avoiding the stylistic pitfalls that can plague first time directors. His film is restrained, allowing the brilliantly designed sets to dominate his frame and give the picture its air of alienation. The production design is a real joy, which gives the film value far beyond its meagre budget, whilst the exterior sequences that utilise miniatures are really something special. I strongly recommend Moon. It’s another case of ambitious independent films trumping Hollywood mega-productions not only in terms of originality, but storytelling, acting and even production design as well.