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Sam Rockwell in Moon

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BY ATTEMPTING to emulate the likes of sci-fi classics Alien, 2001 and Outland, Duncan Jones’ Moon aims very high. But it also reaches the stars.

It’s a brilliant debut feature from David Bowie’s son that’s made all the more remarkable for having been achieved with a budget of just $5 million.

Essentially a one-hander, the film follows the fortunes of astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) in the days before the end of his three-year tenure on the moon, where he’s been the sole man in charge of mining energy for the ailing Earth.

After a freak accident, however, Sam wakes up on his lunar base and finds out that he’s not alone… and that getting home isn’t as easy as he thought.

Jones’ film works on many levels, all of which succeed. It toys with sci-fi convention and has fun subverting them. It features an exceptional central performance from Rockwell. And it’s by far the most intelligent sci-fi offering to emerge from the genre in years.

Where most directors seek to emulate the spectacle of Star Wars with varying degrees of success, Jones has opted to try and match the more cerebral likes of Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, with a little Peter Hyams thrown in for good measure.

Hence, his film is never less than intriguing, whilst functioning as a race-against-the-clock style thriller and a poignant reflection on loneliness, isolation and longing.

It also stands or falls on the ability of its leading man, who commands the screen – in various forms – for virtually the entire running time, with only himself and the voice of a computer (provided by Kevin Spacey) to interact with.

Fortunately, Rockwell is up to the task, turning in a tour-de-force that underlines what a genuinely fine actor he is.

Audiences will have little trouble connecting with Bell’s various fears and neuroses, or the sense of hope and selflessness that gives rise to the film’s memorable conclusion.

For while sombre in places, Moon is also an optimistic tale of man’s ability to overcome that – again – turns most sci-fi conventions on its head. Things you may predict might happen seldom actually do, even though various markers are ticked along the way.

And while blockbuster fans may lament the lack of action and “money-shot” effects that are now sadly part and parcel of the mainstream sub-conscious, those that hold Alien and 2001 so dear can’t fail to be impressed by the emotional scope of Jones’ vision.

Moon effortlessly eclipses most average sci-fi offerings to emerge as one of the finest and most lasting movie experiences of the year. Jones’ own personal star looks set to go into orbit.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 97mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 16, 2009