The outer-space indie “Moon” puts the alien in alienation.
Ever-interesting Sam Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, a contractor running a one-man mining operation for LUNAR Corp., which supplies Earth’s energy needs with Helium-3, a precious gas extracted from the moon’s surface.
Nearing the end of his three-year term, he talks to the moon base’s resident computer, GERTY, as if it was human, and is eager to be reunited with his wife and young daughter.
Alert viewers will suspect that something worrisome is afoot. The video communications from Sam’s Earthbound bosses are condescending and unconvincingly supportive. The seemingly friendly computer is voiced by Kevin Spacey, who couldn’t tell you the time of day without seeming duplicitous.
When Sam takes a rare drive in a lunar rover, he crashes and loses consciousness. Waking up in the base’s medical facility, he’s confused, and comes to believe he’s not alone up there.
Ostensibly, he encounters a younger version of himself; the two Sams strike up a resentful relationship that gradually evolves into a brotherly bond.
The film keeps you guessing about what he is really experiencing. For a while, viewers are as uncertain as Sam himself whether he is hallucinating another presence on the base.
Gradually, cleverly, the issue resolves itself and Sam begins to grapple with the very notion of identity and human nature.
In what is essentially a one-man show, Rockwell delivers a bravura performance, bringing a hardscrabble realism to the character of a blue-collar repairman isolated on a cold, pitiless space rock.
Directed with a sure hand by first-timer Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son), “Moon” is the anti-“Transformers,” a science fiction tale that owes as much to fiction as to science. It tells the truth, even though it is about things that never have been and, hopefully, never will be.