“Not as clever as it thinks it is” was my immediate reaction to Moon, a new Sci-Fi thriller from writers Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker. But as I pondered over the film and discussed it afterwards with my fellow preview-goers my opinion mellowed.
Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an energy firm employee stationed on the moon with only a robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. Nearing the end of his three-year contract Sam is looking forward to returning to Earth and seeing his wife and child, but as his contract nears its end he starts to see people and wonders if he’s alone after all.
When he wakes up after an accident in his moon rover he slowly comes to discover the truth…
If you’re spoiler adverse look away now!
…that he’s a clone with a three year life cycle who will never see Earth and that the memories he’s been relying on to sustain him during his ‘contract’ belong to the original Sam Bell who worked on the moon more than a decade ago.
Worse, the Sam who wakes up in the moon base’s infirmary soon learns he isn’t the same person who had the accident. When he discovers the earlier clone still alive in the wreckage of the rover, the pair hatch a plan which will see one of them finally make it back to Earth.
There’s much about Rockwell’s portrayal of Sam which reminded me of Red Dwarf’s Dave Lister and the bunk room set owes much to that series. Similarly there’s more than a touch of the Space 1999 about some of the sets and the moonscape scenes.
The direction and plot are essentially solid but most of the film’s key revelations aren’t hard to spot ahead of the reveal and it’s really a question or how far ahead you’ll spot them rather than whether you will.
That lack of surprise doesn’t make Moon a bad film but combined with a direction style which sets out to avoid showing any sense of wonder at being in space, correctly given the humdrum nature of Sam’s lonely existence, does make it harder to get to excited. Harder but not impossible because, as cynical as even I revel in being, I found myself caught up in the ‘race against time’ finale.
Despite that I’m still not convinced this is as groundbreaking as the production team intend, the relationship between clones, workers and androids has been done before and this film adds little to the mix other than the isolated location and both the central deceit and finale echoes Capricorn One. But that can hardly be a bad thing!
Considering the overall $5m budget the effects, retro in style and eschewing hackneyed lens flared CGI for solid models, are nothing short of impressive. The look of the film nicely echoes the moon’s own limited colour palette giving a consistent look to Sam’s tiny and tragedy filled world.
On the expectation that the planned two sequels are likely to be bigger and better fans of serious and thought provoking Sci-Fi will want to get themselves down to their local multiplex.
Moon is released across the UK on 17th July