Film, Science fiction
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We know that Duncan Jones is David Bowie’s son, but, more importantly, is his feature debut any good? The answer is a resounding – if qualified – yes, judging by this 1970s-sci-fi throwback, which, for a modern space movie about the knock-on effects on man of future technology, is unusually thoughtful, good-looking and well-acted. Sam Rockwell (below) is Sam Bell, a nervous lone astronaut on the moon where, at some point in the near future, a corporation is mining Helium-3, now the source of most global energy. It’s Bell’s job to manage this operation in the company of a sympathetic robot called Gerty (one of several nods to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’). When we first meet him, Bell’s three-year stint is almost complete, but he’s tired and unhinged – symptoms, no doubt, of solitude and having to communicate with his wife and young child by taped messages as the satellite is broken…

If that last fact sounds a bit too convenient, that’s the point: all is not what it seems. Jones has created a credible theatre in which to stage a meditative play on isolation and identity within the bounds of wild fiction, the edges of which are curiously blurred. Less is more in Jones’s eye: he knows that big ideas can be lost amid noisy gestures so keeps his drama within the confines of a few rooms, with only the odd, more poetic moment unfolding outside on the moon’s surface. As the film goes on, early ideas about loneliness segue into a more troubling (and confusing) study of corporate exploitation and even – here’s a biggie – what it means to be human, when a second Sam Bell, a clone also played by Rockwell, appears and shakes up all perceptions of what’s going on. The film is not entirely logical, but it raises pleasing questions and looks beautiful.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday July 17 2009
Duration: 97 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Duncan Jones
Screenwriter: Nathan Parker
Cast: Sam Rockwell