Moon is an engaging and thoroughly compelling science fiction drama which went almost completely unnoticed when released last year. It won a few awards, most notably the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Duncan Jones, but even that is hardly likely to attract a great deal of attention. It made very little money at the box office, which is a real shame, because this is one of the best and most interesting science fiction films of recent years.
Made on a budget of a mere $5 million dollars, Moon‘s premise is a simple one. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is coming to the end of his three-year contract mining for helium-3 on the Moon. His only companion this whole time has been a computer called GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), whose job is to help Sam in any way he can. Over time, however, he begins hallucinating, and things on the base get progressively stranger, leading him to question not only what is going on, but who he actually is.
To say more would be to ruin an extremely tightly-written and intelligent plot. It’s a little confusing at times, although this was doubtless the intention; and while there are a few plot holes, they only really become noticeable after the credits have rolled. The key to the film is Sam Rockwell’s performance, however.
Having previously played Zaphod Beeblebrox in the Hitchhiker’s Guidefilm and Guy the Redshirt in Galaxy Quest, he gets a chance to really flex his acting muscles in Moon, and he is remarkable. For about 90% of the film he is the only one on camera (other than GERTY), so to say the film is driven by his performance is an understatement. He gives an enormous amount of depth and humanity to what is a very tragic character, an extremely different role from the aforementioned ones. He deserved to have been nominated for an Oscar for this.
What few flaws Moon does have are easily overlooked. Fans of science fiction will doubtless be able to spot numerous elements borrowed from other films of the genre, which can either be interpreted as homage or the film being derivative. Considering the overall tone of the film, it seems more likely to be the former, as it is clearly intended as a throwback to the classics of the genre. One very minor, nitpicky complaint is that it would have been nice to have let the sequences on the surface of the Moon remain silent, but this does not affect the enjoyability of the film.
Moonis one of those films that may not have been successful on first release, but will probably become a beloved cult classic in the years to come. It borrows elements from such science fiction classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runnerand Alienand fuses them together into one of the most original and interesting films of the genre in recent years.