There's an ambitious modesty to Duncan Jones's debut film Moon, a smart, existential science-fiction drama with one onscreen actor that runs 97 minutes and goes nowhere more exotic than our planet's natural satellite.
The setting itself recalls the era of the Apollo project, that remarkable period during which, over a three-year span of time between 1969 and 1972, a dozen Americans walked on the moon. Not coincidentally, at least as regards Moon's milieu, it's also the era of philosophically serious science-fiction films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running and Solaris, the influence of which is consciously at work in Moon. There is also a connection to Blade Runner (though not in terms of mood, structure or look).
Yet where these films dealt with apocalyptic, transcendent or large-scale phenomena, Moon engages similar questions of identity and human nature on a smaller scale. Nothing more is ever at stake in the actual onscreen events than the lives of a very small number of characters, although the film explicitly indicates a larger scope of issues. While it doesn't look like a $50 million film, you wouldn't guess Moon was made for just a tenth of that figure—especially with a premise that requires a special-effects set piece for an ordinary game of Ping-Pong.
A great deal of the credit goes to the impressively fluid contributions of Sam Rockwell, who grounds the film's emotional contradictions and disconnects in bruised working-class stoicism and a sly streak of humor. Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut and mining contractor nearing the end of a three-year term at the Sarang lunar base on the far side of the moon. Sam's job involves monitoring a trio of roaming mining units (nicknamed Matthew, Mark and Luke) ...1