In this case, that director is Duncan Jones, and that debut feature is Moon. On a budget of just $5 million, Jones crafts a beautiful, thought-provoking piece of sci-fi cinema that, refreshingly, doesn't shuffle it's characters under the rug in favor of visuals. In fact, character is front and center here: it's nearly a one-man show as we follow a single astronaut doing his rounds aboard a lunar mining station. That astronaut is Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), who, alongside a friendly AI named GERTY, discovers a stunning secret. Rockwell is predictably amazing, but this is far and away his best and deepest performance. He manages to bring his trademark sense of dry humor, but also infuses the loneliness and mentally deteriorated nature of a man who has lived in total isolation for three years. Kevin Spacey voices GERTY, and while he's not a truly major character, Spacey brings the character to life in the same way Douglas Rain did with fellow AI Hal 9000.
The film was produced on just a $5 million budget, as previously stated, but you'd almost never guess it. The visual aesthetic of the lunar base is the perfect blend of sleek white halls and gritty equipment you'd expect from a 2035 space operation. The few instances of heavier visual effects look great, but thankfully, this isn't a film that has to rely on them. The standout of the technical aspects is the score from Clint Mansell. The score is sweeping and majestic when it needs to be, such as during one of the several lunar rover missions, but is also subtle and understated, to match the quiet character moments of Sam Bell.
Duncan Jones has successfully established himself as one of the finest directors working today with just one film. In a time where sci-fi concepts are not explored as deeply as they could be, Jones takes no hesitation in delivering a hard sci-fi tale that also serves as a beautiful, and heartbreaking, character study. This is some of the best indie filmmaking has to offer.
Who is Sam Bell?
Are there memories real?
What happened to the wife?
How did the cloning take take place?
Why do they die after 3 years?
But answering none of them in the second half of the movie.