Science fiction can encompass many genres--suspense, horror, action-adventure, romance, even comedy--but director Duncan Jones's Moon doesn't fit neatly into any of them. This smart, provocative film has no aliens or cool spaceships, and the effects (mostly consisting of model vehicles lumbering across the lunar surface) aren't all that special; instead, the material is character- and story-driven, centering on an excellent, multilayered performance by Sam Rockwell. The scene is some undetermined point in the future. Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an employee of Lunar Industries, the company responsible for mining a fusion energy source called Helium-3, which is vital to Earth's efforts to reverse a serious energy crisis and can only be found on the far side of the Moon. Sam is all by himself, and as he nears the end of his three-year contract, the solitude is starting to get to him ("Three years is a long haul," he says. "Way, way, way too long. I'm talking to myself on a regular basis"); his only contact with his wife and daughter back home comes through the occasional video messages he exchanges with them, while his sole interaction on the Moon is with GERTY 3000, a computer voiced by Kevin Spacey (and an obvious parallel to 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000). Things start to go seriously sideways when Sam crashes his vehicle while out inspecting one of the giant Helium-3 harvesters. He comes to in the base infirmary, seemingly none the worse for the wear; but an unnerving surprise awaits him when he goes back to check out the accident site, and the resulting complications occupy the rest of the movie. Fans of 2001, Solaris, and other cerebral sci-fi will enjoy figuring out what's going on; others will find it slow-moving and tedious. Either way, Moon, which was made quickly and on a relatively low budget, is well worth a look. --Sam Graham
Duncan Jones, who won the 2010 BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer, writes and directs this critically-acclaimed space isolation drama starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a worker for Lunar Industries who is nearing the end of a three-year contract to mine the moon's surface for the precious gas Helium 3, the solution to Earth's energy crisis. As he approaches his return to Earth, Sam reflects on the lessons he has learned during his prolonged isolation and looks forward to his reunion with his wife and young daughter. But a fortnight before his departure he starts seeing and hearing strange things that lead him to suspect that his employers intend to replace him in a far more sinister way than he imagined. Kevin Spacey provides the voice for Sam's only companion, a small robot called Gerty.