When a space-set movie takes the route of human alienation (no pun intended) as opposed to man versus unknown monster, the success of it most often falls on the performance of the actors. In the case of the fascinatingly peculiar Moon, we basically only have one human, Sam Rockwell, to carry us through the movie. Fortunately Rockwell is in top form, and he carries the weight of the ambitious and sometimes lacking story on his very capable shoulders.
Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut who is at the end of his three-year stint on the far side of Moon helping, alongside his computer Gerty, to supply the population back on Earth with an energy source which helps to solve the planet's power problems. Two weeks before the end of his contract, Sam discovers a shocking truth about his assignment.
Moon explores a number of different philosophical questions, notions, theories, and possibilities, such as what happens when a man is alone for such a long time, what really matters in life, and what's the meaning of existence? Moon certainly isn't the first film to delve into these questions, certainly not within the framework of being alone in space with just your thoughts and a supercomputer. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the immediate comparison, with the legendary HAL 9000 being evoked here by the cut-from-the-same-metal computer called Gerty, voiced in deadpan fashion by Kevin Spacey. Steven Soderbergh's remake of Solaris and even Alien - in its quieter, less action-oriented scenes - are also echoed here.
But while almost paying homage to past projects exploring the same kinds of issues and set within the same kind of situation, Moon is very much its own movie. It's an unpredictable movie, starting out going in one direction and suddenly taking an unexpected turn to another. Its ideas are incredibly ambitious, something which ultimately holds it back from joining the list of the all-time great movies of this type. But luckily Rockwell is a brilliant, not to mention much underrated, actor and he essentially carries the movie. He's always been an interesting actor to watch, and this one-man show gives him the opportunity to show just how good he is. Given the nature of the story (which I won't give away for spoiler purposes), Rockwell gets to play this character in all sorts of states, from desperate to courageous, all within the film's effectively short 97-minute runtime, and put to Clint Mansell's subtle, infectious musical score.