Moon

| July 09, 2009

A thinky sci-fi film that directly references the standard-bearers of the subgenre — 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Blade Runner — Moon is an impressive achievement on a skimpy $5 million budget. Directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie's son), Moon takes place in a future where the Earth's energy problems have been solved by the harvesting of "clean-burning helium3" from the moon.

Lonely spaceman Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the only worker at a mining colony on the dark side of the moon and is entering the final two-week stretch of his three-year contract with Lunar Industries LTD, after which he is slated to return home to his wife and pre-schooler daughter. He communicates with his family by video message, but his only lunar companion is a robot assistant named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

About 20 minutes into the film, Sam totals the lunar land rover while on a maintenance mission and lands in the infirmary. From there, Moon takes a bizarre twist into more philosophical, Twilight Zone-ish sci-fi territory, with Sam rescuing another, heretofore unseen, worker who turns out to look identical to him. Is this a hallucination? A clone?

The questions this doubling provokes will be familiar to any fan of the genre but are made compelling yet again. The juxtaposition of the casual, modern Rockwell against the sterile, futuristic setting gives the film its own personality, though perhaps Jones doesn't commit fully enough to a couple of loopy potential set-pieces (involving Ping-Pong and Katrina & the Waves).

Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke) is an odd yet engaging screen presence. There's more of him here than ever before. And that's a good thing.

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