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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rock and role: Jamie Bell's character Benjamin Grimm is transformed into 'Thing' in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Fantastic Four'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins veered between sycophancy and insult in her new chat show
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
In his role as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch will have to learn, and repeat night after night, around 1,480 lines

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens with pupils at Hollins Technology College in Accrington
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The rapper Drake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The gaffer: Prince Philip and the future Queen in 1947
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Style icons: The Beatles on set in Austria
film
Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
    Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

    Berlusconi's world of sleaze

    The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
    Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

    Could gaming arcades be revived?

    The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
    Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

    Heard the one about menstruation?

    Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage