The best science fiction films are usually able to mix the technical and the humane, resulting in a movie that has something interesting to say about the nature of man and the influence of his technology. Think about films like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Blade Runner, and (of course) 2001: A Space Odyssey, and you'll be thinking about movies that are knee-deep in nifty, high-tech concepts, but are even more interested in thoughts of humanity, faith, and philosophy.
Duncan Jones' debut feature is one such science fiction film. Anchored by a fantastic Sam Rockwell performance, awash in the evocative sounds of Clint Mansell's score, supported by some really excellent effects work, and conceived with a focus on both the speculative AND the humane, the aptly-title MOON is, quite simply, one of the most compelling sci-fi films of the past 20 years.
The premise is basic yet instantly intriguing: Somewhere in the near future there lives a man on the moon, and his job is to send back to Earth frequent parcels of "Helium 3," a resource that has solved approximately 75% of the Earth's power problems. The only problem is this: Poor Sam Bell is up there all alone! For reasons best left to the film to explain, Sam is on the tail-end of a three-year contract, and he simply cannot wait to get back to Earth and be reunited with his family. Sam's only companion during his three-year assignment is a laconic but very helpful super-computer called Gerty. (The computer is voiced by Kevin Spacey, and very well I might add, but it does take a few minutes to get used to such a familiar voice coming from a super-computer with a smiley face on the monitor.)
If by this point you're thinking "Oh, I get it. A three-year solo lunar mission with only a sentiental computer to keep our hero company. I'm pretty sure I've seen this movie already." Guess again, sci-fi fans. While you may be able to predict a few of Moon's plot points and divergences, odds are you'll still find a few cool surprises here. (And even if you've figured it ALL out, which is unlikely, the flick is just plain old smart, slick-looking, and fun to watch.)
I'm bending over backwards so as NOT to divulge any spoilers, and the movie doesn't help by delivering a big twist only 20-some minutes in, but suffice to say that Sam's isolation is relatively short-lived. So while Moon is very satisfying from a multi-layered sci-fi perspective, it's also very enjoyable because Sam Rockwell is such a colorful actor. As the flick progresses, Rockwell goes from lonely to manic to battered ... from reborn to heroic to desperate, and all sorts of shades in between. Moon would be seeing just for Rockwell's work, but thankfully it's quite a bit more than just a cool vehicle for a versatile performer.
As a genre film, Moon covers a lot of bases: It's very smart and occasionally silly. It deals with some very lofty concepts, but it does so by way of a human conflict that gets really sorta ... twisted. It's a little creepy, oddly bittersweet, and full of ideas that are actually worth thinking and talking about. Best of all, it's a movie that actually seems to warrant an extra viewing or two, and in today's sci-fi landscape, that's pretty impressive all by itself.