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To call this smart little film the best science fiction movie of the year isn’t saying a whole lot: What’s the competition? Transformers 2 is all special effects and no ideas; Star Trek is a character driven adventure. Terminator: Salvation qualifies as authentic science fiction, but it’s hardly a good example. Moon, on the other hand, makes you think about a lot of things pertinent to our lives and futures while you’re watching it unfold, and to those who might complain that it asks more questions than it answers, I say that questions shouldn’t be avoided simply because they can’t be answered.

The movie is set a few decades from now on a mining station on the dark side of the moon. Run entirely by machines, the station is tended by a single human inhabitant, Sam (Sam Rockwell). Nearing the end of his three-year contract, Sam is eager to leave this lifeless, somewhat grungy place where his only companion is a non-humanoid robot minder named Gerty, who speaks with the soothing but untrustworthy voice of Kevin Spacey. Gerty’s dialogue is accompanied by a limited number of smiley-face variants, an indication of how little the corporation that controls the mine thinks of Sam’s needs. An actor who has chosen a career of oddball parts over a path to Hollywood stardom—his best role to date was as game show host/CIA assassin Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind—Rockwell finds both the weirdness and the existential angst in Sam’s plight, which we soon come to realize is not going to end the way he expects it to. (I am intentionally being vague about plot because you deserve to experience it for yourselves.) Filmed with technical polish on a low budget, Moon variously evokes films like Memento and Silent Running, and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey. The director, making his feature debut after a successful career in British commercials, is Duncan Jones, who refrains from using the song “Space Oddity” on the soundtrack. He probably could have got the rights—his father is David Bowie. (Not to be confused with Dave Bowman, the astronaut who wages a battle of wits with HAL in 2001.) Moon probably won’t earn a fraction of a percent of the box office bonanza that is Transformers 2, but it is by far the better film.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Moon

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