One of the most enjoyable classes I took in college was a summer course on sci-fi literature. The assigned reading included superb novels (along with a few that were a little stodgy) but what I liked best were those great short stories from the Golden Age of Science Fiction; All You Zombies and The Cold Equations and just about anything by Asimov. The new indie sci-fi movie Moon reminds me of those classic short stories in the best possible way. It's true hard science fiction — lean, brainy, and creative — and I recommend to any and all genre fans who enjoyed the space opera of Star Trek but found it a little intellectually lightweight. Moon's got ya covered.
The story involves an astronaut played by Sam Rockwell on a three-year solo mining operation on the moon, with only an omnipresent A.I. named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) to keep him company. Everything's going swimmingly until Sam gets into an accident on a standard surface mission and the plot plunges into a dark and fascinating direction, examining humanity, corporations, technology, and ethics through a very, very small cast, a tiny handful of sets, and only the subtlest bit of special effects work.
As much as I enjoy gabbing at you fuckers I won't reveal anything beyond the movie's fifteen-minute mark for fear of undermining the power of the story, but I will say that I really admire the way Moon handles plot twists. There are several, yes, but in rejection of the popular M. Night Shyamalan method of shoving them at film's end as giant expository wham moments they're worked subtly and organically into the narrative framework. Early on I thought I had guessed the "ending twist," only to have said twist be revealed with little fanfare in the first act, with the protagonist who was actually smart like a real person figuring it out as quickly as the audience and the plot moving on from there. Right then I knew I was watching something kinda special.
Along with the clever screenplay it deserves mention that this, stunningly enough, is the first feature by director Duncan Jones. He's helped along by Clint Mansell's haunting, piano-heavy score and of course Sam Rockwell's one-man-show performance full of high-strung energy that contrasts perfectly with his sterile lunar surroundings, but the eerie tension Jones creates feels less like that of a nervous filmmaking virgin and a lot more like Alien-era Ridley Scott. It's a confident and memorable vision that deserves to go down as a minor classic of hard sci-fi and I look forward to whatever Jones cooks up next.
4 Stars out of 5