Duncan Jones makes his feature film directorial debut with Sam Rockwell in the lead, in a science fiction film like no other. Does Moon stand-out amongst other science fiction greats, or does is need to come back down to Earth? (Yes, puns are great ways to open reviews...)
What will probably come to many viewers minds before even seeing this film is just who is Duncan Jones? To get this out of the way, he is the son of famous singer (and actor, I suppose), David Bowie. It's not something that effects the movie, but if you're wondering how some random guy was able to get a film like this out... yeah. Honestly, after watching Moon, I don't think anyone needs to label Duncan Jones as Bowie's son, "director of Moon" will probably work just fine. Personally, what caught my attention for the movie was the brilliant, retro-chic poster (you can click that one up there for a better view) for the film, which then led me to see the even more brilliant trailer.
As for the film itself, Moon centers around commercial astronaut, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who has been alone in Lunar Industries' Sarang Moonbase for nearly three years, monitoring the mining of Helium-3, Earth's primary source of energy. Just a note, the movie never actually gives a specific date as to when the movie takes place, but perhaps it was to protect the plot (I can't much more there). Though he is the sole human on the Moon, Sam is monitored by a computer system, Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey); but before you get ahead of yourself, the relationship between Sam and Gerty is nothing like Dave and HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But all is not well; while prepping for his last few weeks on the base, Sam starts to believe he's losing his mind from being there too long. On a regular maintenance drive, Sam accidentally crashes after seeing what he believes to be another person, however, he awakens soon after back at the base, as if the crash never happened. On another check outside the base, Sam stumbles upon a crashed lunar rover, and the man inside is himself. As VFH standard, I cannot give away anymore for reason of spoilers, but the film involves Sam interacting with his duplicate, in a story that delves into a conflict of man vs. himself in more ways than you could imagine.
To say the least about the story, since it's really hard to delve into without spoiling, I really had no idea where it was going to go; and that's a good thing in my opinion. Of course, I did have some idea, having already watched the trailer about fifty times, and reading a synopsis or two, but the film has plenty of suspense and mystery, and I think those traits always have a place in science fiction.
The main thing that makes Moon very unique is that the cast really only consists of Sam Rockwell. Sure, Moon is not the first film t feature one actor playing a duplicate or twin of themselves, but how many films only have one cast member? To be fair, there are others, such as Sam's wife and daughter which he only interacts with via pre-recorded messages, and there's Gerty, but the interactions between the characters of Sam is a truly unique thing to witness. In fact, the last film I saw with Sam Rockwell in it was 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I can't really judge the guy on his experience, but if Moon is anything to go by, he can actually pull off this serious (though sometimes comedic) role. If I have any gripes, it's probably due to the unnecessary choice language by Sam's character; I'm all up for cursing, but sometimes twelve f-words in one sentence aren't needed to express your emotions in a film.
In addition to the casting and setting, what really made the film for me was the soundtrack. While some tracks repeated throughout the film, Clint Mansell's score for the film is epic, and makes the desolation of the Moon even more dramatic, and the engaging scenes so much more thrilling. Really, I don't think Moon would be half as memorable and/or compelling without the great soundtrack.
Overall, what I really enjoyed about Moon over other sci-fi films was the conflict of man vs. himself, instead of the typical man vs. machine or man vs. extra terrestrial; it's a science fiction film that proves you don't need fancy special effects or complex alien races just to make a unique, thought provoking experience, and I think that's what made me really enjoy it. If you can manage to find Moon playing in your area (as it's currently on very limited release), please do yourself a favor and check this out if not once, a few times.
Overall Score: 9.8/10
Had Moon been a famous director's fifth theatrical film, I probably wouldn't give it as much praise; not that it's a bad film (far from it), but when a directorial debut is this compelling, it's truly special. So for the fact that this is Duncan Jones' first feature length film, he definitely deserves some high recognition; that or a VFH Seal of Approval. What's even more fascinating is that Jones was able to make a truly unique and special science fiction experience on a lowly $5 million budget (and yes, that's actually low by today's standards). Perhaps he adjusted the story to the budget by having only one cast member, but regardless, Moon is a movie you'll probably want to watch a few times to fully understand it, and in the end, its thought provoking story is really what makes it shine.
For more on Moon, see Moon-Movie.com