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:: Moon

With only limited resources at his disposal, director Duncan Jones has fashioned a bold and emphatic debut with Moon. It’s an enigmatic sci-fi drama, full of fresh and compelling philosophical ideas, despite influences from films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Silent Running (1972) coursing through its cinematic veins. One of America’s most underrated actors Sam Rockwell is asked to carry a formidable load here and he does with aplomb, managing to make seamless transitions between masterfully overlapping scenarios believable.

Sam Bell (Rockwell) is a desolate traveler, the lone astronaut manning a drifting space station for mega-corporation Lunar Industries who are responsible for mining Helium-3 gas. Awakening from an accident Sam finds himself confronted by a savior who bears peculiar physical features. Is he trapped in a surreal dream of his own fabrication? Or has another entity somehow boarded his craft to observe and haunt him as his dubious assignment counts down to completion?

There are leaps of faith required for audiences to embrace the inherent twists in Nathan Parker’s screenplay (based on an original story by Jones) and it’s one of those films where letting the cat out of the bag would be cruel. Rest assured, there are numerous surprising, often daring turns in the road ahead for those with the patience to allow the slyly compelling narrative to build from its humble, measured beginnings.

An element clearly evoked by Kubrick’s masterpiece is the utilisation of computerized assistance for Bell; here, Kevin Spacey voices the ubiquitous ‘GERTY’ who tends to his needs whilst providing a valuable companion against whom he can react and toss ideas. Sam's stretch in space is seemingly coming to an end and helping maintain his focus are thoughts of the wife and child awaiting his arrival on Earth. But will this forsaken man ever make it back to see them?

Multi-layered ethical and moral conundrums are at the heart of this thought-provoking rumination on aloneness: the notions of responsibility and repressed memories that may not even exist recall Blade Runner (1982) and the identity theme that defined that film’s influential status. The controlling arm of the nefarious conglomerate may linger with malignant purpose on the fringes but the human element is of much more importance to Jones. Whilst fleshing his limited premise out, he somehow manages to evenly stretch a three million dollar budget with the precision of an experienced veteran used to forgoing excessive expenditure for the sake of a project's integrity.

Gary Shaw's ingenious cinematography provides the gloss of a production seemingly blessed with vaster resources, whilst Clint Mansell’s ethereal, melodic score wafts over scenes to dreamy, almost mystical effect; both add immeasurably to the haunting, weightless pull of outer space and the ambiguity this impressive film thrives on. Moon is a rare example of a film able to pay homage to genre ancestors by integrating key elements with sparkling original ideas of its own, producing a riveting and surprising cinematic gem that’s sure to be regarded as one of the year's finest.