Moon, Edinburgh International Film Festival

4.00

Bowie's son lands a man on the moon

Don't be fooled by the generic-sounding title: Moon is one of the most original sci-fi films in years. Better still, it's British and made for the sort of budget – $5m – that wouldn't pay for half a Transformer in Hollywood.

Far more satisfying than Danny Boyle's Sunshine – the last time the British film industry tried to crack the genre – Moon is the first film from Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie. Produced by Sting's wife, Trudie Styler, any thoughts that this might be some music industry vanity project are swiftly banished as its compelling story unfolds.

Helium 3, a real but rare substance used in nuclear fusion research, is being harvested from the Moon, providing 70 per cent of the world's power. Cut to Mining Base Sarang, an isolated unit on the Moon run by a crew of one, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). For company he has Gerty, a battered-looking computer, voiced by Kevin Spacey, who keeps the base running smoothly.

Coming towards the end of his three-year contract, Bell is desperate to get home to his wife and child.

"I'm talking to myself on a regular basis," he half-jokes. His only entertainment seems to be watching re-runs of Bewitched and carving a model village out of wood. When Sam sees a hallucination of a girl in the base, it becomes clear he's beginning to endure some sort of meltdown. By the time he sees her again, this time causing him to crash his buggy, it's evident he isn't just suffering from a bad case of cabin fever.

Any further revelations would ruin what is a delicious plot that bears more in common with the themes of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner than, say, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It deals with perennial sci-fi staples – from alienation to the morality of scientific advancement – in a way that reinvigorates the genre without being po-faced about it.

When the isolated Sam wakes up to the sound of Chesney Hawkes wailing "I Am the One and Only", there's a black humour there that becomes increasingly poignant as the film progresses.

Scripted by first-timer Nathan Parker, and based on a story by Jones himself, what makes Moon so impressive is that it never follows the path you expect. Take Gerty for example: with a little monitor displaying a smiley face that shows different expressions for its state of mind, the obvious comparison is HAL, the rogue computer in 2001. Indeed, Spacey, with that indifferent lilt to his voice, brings to mind Douglas Rain's vocal patterns in Kubrick's film; but Jones and Parker never let Gerty become a HAL clone.

As for Rockwell, this is his Cast Away performance – though he's far more convincing and credible than Tom Hanks' showy turn ever was. Without giving away spoilers, his work also has elements of Nic Cage in Adaptation and Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers, though Rockwell trumps them all.

If the role is hardly new territory for the actor, he's fully convincing as a man who begins to realise his company has betrayed him. Shot at Shepperton, what Jones and his team achieve is remarkable. It's not that the special effects are anything spectacular (the story doesn't require it), it's just that creating a credible-looking Moon setting for next-to-nothing is an achievement as ambitious as the script itself.

Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home