I have to say, from all the critical praise this movie gets, I'm a little underwhelmed/disappointed I'm afraid. But that doesn't mean this film is by any means a disaster, it's quite the opposite actually.
Let's start with the positives. Firstly, Sam Rockwell can act, he plays Sam Bell (TOO MANY SAMS) , an astronaut who maintains harvesters on the moon that gives energy back to the earth. His performance, especially as the deteriorating version of himself, plays out like an absolute fever dream. It's pretty damn excellent. The soundtrack to this film is wonderful. Combining a somber piano tune with the mysteries scattered in the movie. The atmosphere is cold, simplistic, but cold. Which I guess capitalises on the colour scheme of the movie itself, black and white. GERTY, played by Kevin Spacey, is a big help (maybe top much of a help as I'll explain later). The cinematography and stage design are all on par. But Moon has plenty of wafer-thin plot devices that unfortunately drag it down.
The emotional connection between Sam and his daughter, through his perspective is absolutely harrowing, but through the audiences eyes I feel as if Duncan Jones could've done more visually to interpret his mental breakdown as a clone. The dramatic elements of this movie, whilst mysterious, are unfortunately uneventful for the most part. Yes, there is somewhat of a 'big reveal', but it's bought down by how explained it is. A robotic giveaway by GERTY. Sam's illness could've been highlighted a bit more, there is some gross signs of his body whittling away at itself, but mentally I feel like instead of maybe using a metaphor which is also grounded in reality, Duncan Jones could've utilised the 'perception vs reality' concept hinted at around the time Sam pours boiling water on himself.
In what could've been a fever dream of ambiguity, Moon is sadly not the cold chilling film it could've been. There are some great moments of brokenness, but the character's motivation and reaction to the essential thinly advertised twist of the whole movie is done exceedingly poorly. Still, Moon isn't a disaster and it's very well made in terms of atmosphere. It's just everything else is a bit meh, in an attempt to compensate for lack of ideas to do with the harshness of isolation, especially in a cruel environment like space.
But then watching the special features on the DVD and hearing one of the producers complain about the "exploitation of people by big corporations" or whatever made my eyes roll almost completely out of my head. Big companies exploit, big governments exploit, humans exploit other humans, that's it. Doesn't matter who is holding the gun to the little guy's head, shit's gonna happen either way, you stupid bitch. OK I am done ranting. Otherwise, decent "indie" film (as indie as you can get on $5M).
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.