Sam Rockwell in Moon
"Moon is a sometimes meditative Seventies science fiction classic, just arriving 40 years late."

From the moment it opens, it's clear Moon harks back to the classic science fiction films of the late Sixties and early Seventies. The film drops us straight into an advertisement for Lunar Industries Limited, a commercial powerhouse that is, literally, mining the moon for resources to fuel fusion plants. It's the same kind of immersive trick as that used in Verhoeven's RoboCop - giving us a glimpse of the world of the future through the lies it tells itself to make money. As the film unfolds, it is clear there are plenty more.

Sam Rockwell is Sam Bell, the sole staff member of the lunar mining facility. He tends to the needs of four giant harvesters, strip-mining the surface for Helium-3. Due to a satellite malfunction there's no "real time" communication, short bursts of messages, videos sent to and from his family, what the Navy calls "familygrams". Sam's only companion is Gerty, a concerned robot sidekick who dangles from the ceiling.

Copy picture

Gerty is voiced by Kevin Spacey, who is brilliant. The robot may only have eight facial expressions, like smileys in a chat client, but they are superbly deployed. He might only have one arm, but he's a dutiful friend to Sam, more so as things begin to get complicated. Sam has an accident, you see, and the consequences are significant.

The film recalls works like Blade Runner, 2001, Alien, even Space 1999 in terms of the excellent model sequences on the lunar surface. Gerty's design harks back to Huey, Louie and Dewey in Silent Running, and there's a nod to Logan's Run in one of the passwords. This is a small film in some ways, a tiny cast, a handful of sets; and in other ways it's a huge film, with morality, identity, technology, humanity, all combining. Theodore Sturgeon defined science fiction as a "human problem with a human solution, caused and brought about by science". This film is certainly that, and it's very good too.

It's not without problems, in truth, but they are few. The circumstances that bring about the plot are a little odd, but can be swallowed as a convention of the subset of the genre here reflected; given X, ignoring why, what then? As a technical exercise, the little clues and plotting are perfectly judged, hints and red herrings abound, and there are several poignant revelations.

In some ways it recalls Doomsday - that was an Eighties post-apocalypse film that just happened to have been released in 2008. Moon is similar, a sometimes meditative Seventies science fiction classic, just arriving 40 years late. That's not really a problem. It's always nice, as was the case with Gran Torino, to discover that they can still make them like they used to.

Director Duncan Jones (once known as Zowie Bowie) has produced an amazing debut feature. He's here helped by credible special effects, the work of screenwriter Nathan Parker, and a well-judged central performance from Rockwell. Jones has previously made another science fiction film, the short Whistle, and on the strength of this outing it's worth seeking out. It is also worth looking forward to forthcoming projects Mute and Escape From The Deep. Moon is that good.

Reviewed on: 07 Jul 2009
Share this with others on...
Moon packshot
An astronaut starts to lose the plot at the end of a mission to the moon - but is there something else going on? Plus read our exclusive interview with
Amazon link

Read more Moon reviews:

Tony Sullivan ****1/2
Stephen Carty ****
Nick Da Costa ****

Director: Duncan Jones

Writer: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Matt Berry, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong, Malcolm Stewart, Dominique McElligott, Robin Chalk

Year: 2009

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Nines
Silent Running