Duncan Jones, the director of Source Code and the upcoming Warcraft, is one of the more promising upcoming directors. And it shows a lot in Moon, a prime example that a sci fi film can be compelling without any form of destruction or mayhem going on. Most sci fi films would include aliens, or explosions or anything to show off the technical prowess of today's technology. However, Moon doesn't rely on any of that and just shows off how a simple story can be elevate off of pure acting talent. Moon is, in short, a contemporary masterpiece. Duncan Jones can probably never measure up to this film, due to how nearly perfect it is, and that's not to fault Jones, but to praise this movie.
In the future, Earth suffers from an energy crisis, bringing the world on it's knees. However, a new power source, Helium-3 which can be found on the dark side of the moon, can provide the world with enough power to sustain itself. To harvest this energy, Lunar Industries, the company behind the harvesting project, sends one lone astronaut, Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), to monitor the system. Soon, he finds a double of himself, located in a crashed rover. Afraid and confused, both Sam Bells attempt to find the truth. The plot is simple, and the film basks in it's simplicity, which makes the film all the more compelling and interesting. Rather than throwing in aliens or some stupid twist, the film just revolves around it's simple premise.
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2, Seven Psychopaths) is the base of this movie. He makes his character more likable, and due to his situation, makes the character much more tragic. In the hands of a lesser actor, the character could've been easily written off as unlikable or boring, but Rockwell gives his all in this performance. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards, the Usual Suspects) comes in as the voice actor for GERTY, a Lunar Industries robot who's assigned to help keep Sam safe and secure. I can't say that Spacey was amazing, mainly cause his voice was one-note through the film, but the character itself was very likable.
Clint Mansell's score sets up the atmosphere of this film, giving it a quiet ambiance and dream-like feel. The set design gives the film a low budget feel, but it adds to the charm of the film. Duncan Jones is able to set up the film's universe and keeps it fresh and inventive. Of course, some may complain that the film is more reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Alien, but I find that to be what makes the film even much better. It harkens back to the 70s style of science fiction, and that's a high praise indeed.
The film's small scope adds to the film. Again, this is not a technical marvel, but much more of a psychological thriller. The character of Sam Bell is very lonely and isolated from the world. He's unsure whether the double of himself is real or a figment of his imagination, or at least, it seems that way. Cinematographer Gary Shaw is able to capture the loneliness of the moon, and adds much more to the film than before. It puts a relatable human feel to a genre which seems to become more alienated with each entry.
Some minor negatives would include some of the sound and editing, nothing that's a deal breaker, but it feels a little off. Some scenes are faded out and faded in, making you feel as if you're watching a short film, rather than a feature length movie. Some of the voice editing is off as well. Some scenes feel like they happened in two different takes, rather than being seamless. Of course, I can't fully fault the film on that because the budget restraints do kind of give it a pass. However, again, it's not a technical masterpiece, but rather a story-driven film.
Overall, Moon is what a lot of films should strive to be: sweet and short. Nothing more, nothing less. This is a one-man show, giving Sam Rockwell enough time to ham it up as two characters. The solid script is enhanced by Duncan Jones' clear direction and makes the film all the more worthwhile. It captures the silence and isolation of the moon, and it has a human feel to it's story. The twists and turns this film takes are outstanding and the emotional pull is there. To compare this to Source Code is like comparing food to water: Can't we just enjoy both?