Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the completion of his 3-year-long contract with Lunar Industries, mining Earth's primary source of energy on the dark side of the moon. Alone with only the base's vigilant computer Gerty (voiced by Oscar-Winner Kevin Spacey, 1999 Best Actor, American Beauty) as his sole companion, Bell's extended isolation has taken its toll. His only link to the outside world comes from satellite messages from his wife and young daughter. He longs to return home, but a terrible accident on the lunar surface leads to a disturbing discovery that contributes to his growing sense of paranoia and dislocation so many miles away from home. Moon is an engrossing, intelligent sci-fi thriller that ranks with genre classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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