Title: MoonDirector: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong, Matt Berry, Malcolm Stewart
Plot: In 2035 an alternative fuel helium-3 has solved the oil crisis, while the automated facility setup to mine this fuel source on the Moon is watched over by a lone astronaut Sam Bell (Rockwell) who is currently coming to the end of his three year work contract when he begins to suspect that everything might not be as it seems.
Review: The feature debut of director Duncan Jones, who it seems is another director who will despite receiving a large amount of critical acclaim for this films to date, still never seems to be a name that makes anyone one’s top 5 lists with his films no doubt being better known than the man himself. Jones is also another director who like Spike Jonze and David Fincher before him also comes from a background in commercials and as a result brings with him for this debut a very visual driven film while also one which recalls the blue collar sci-fi movies such as Silent Runnings, Dark Star and Alien which it would seem were all a clear inspiration for this film.
Sam is every bit the blue collar astronaut who has worked his long stint at the facility alone with only the base computer GERTY (Spacey) for company he longs to return to Earth to see his wife Tess (McElligott) who he receives the occasional recorded message from, with any live feed having long since been disabled due to communication issues on the base. Despite the isolation Sam is generally happy in his work, finding distractions around the base such as his model making and talking to his plants when not required to do the occasional bit of manual labour. However things might not be exactly what they seem Sam soon discovers thanks to a world shattering discovery.
Okay to really get into this film there are going to be some spoilers throughout this review so in case you haven’t seen this film already I will urge you now to check it out and then come back to read to read the rest as while this film largely rests on a twist, its one which opens the door to a much larger aspect of the film much like the discovery of the hatch in “Martyrs”. So please consider yourself warned as spoilers lie ahead.
Its during what would appear to be a routine repair that Sam suddenly makes a startling discovery as finding a crash rover he is surprised to find that the astronaut driver is himself. What follows is where the film really gets interesting as Sam is faced with working with his exact double to discover what is happening on the base, while at the same time knowing that a supposed rescue party could also equally be a clean-up crew from the company. At the same time Sam is faced with the knowledge that he is a clone in an endless cycle while the real Sam is back on Earth, let alone the three year work contract is nothing but a cover used by the company so that clone will voluntary disintegrate themselves under the guise of being sent home, while another clone is awoken to take their place.
The twist here is certainly being a surprising one it’s also one which adds a whole new level to the film as the two clones are forced to work together to figure out their situation and the secret behind what is happening at the base. At the same time while they might be clones their personalities are wildly different with the senior Sam being quite mellow and laid back in his attitude, while the new Sam is quick to angry and frequently aggressive which it would seem that the original Sam was prior to finding an inner peace during his work contract as further hinted at in one of the recordings from his wife on Earth. It really only makes it the more surprising that Rockwell didn’t get an Oscar nod for his performance which is yet another standout to rival his scene stealing role in “The Way Way Back”. Here though he manages to top it by giving us two sides to the same character let alone the fact he’s acting with himself. Equally enjoyable is Kevin Spacey’s performance as the HAL-like Gerty who despite giving the impression of another cold and emotionless machine shows a surprisingly high amount of emotion despite only ever speaking in monotone. Sam’s relationship with Gerty is a confusing one as it’s never explained why he is so loyal to Sam and frequently willing to break company guidelines to help him when its fully expected that such a machine would be free of any kind of emotion. Its a point which is also frustratingly never explained here.
Despite the fact that I’ve no doubt made this sound way more complex than it is, this is surprisingly a straightforward yet undeniably stylish film, which is only made the more impressive by the fact that Jones shot the film on a budget of a mere $5 million which the end result certainly rivals that of a more mainstream production, with Jones using his background to full potential here it would seem as he crafts a complete world on limited sets of sterile whites with the occasional burst of personalisation that Sam has chosen to add and the result unquestionably makes this an immerse film to watch as you find yourself pulled into this isolated world.
A stunning and intelligent debut this film really marked out Jones as a talent to watch and a promise which he
followed up with the equally enjoyable “Source Code” though it remains to be seen at the time of writing if he can bring the same visionary direction to the fantasy world with his forthcoming adaption of “World of Warcraft”. That being said this is an impressive debut and one which manages to dance around the usual sci-fi cliché’s to present a believable vision of the future in what Jones has hinted at being the first film of a proposed trilogy making it only the more tantalising to see where he would take the story next.