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originalWith a lineage like his it should come as no surprise that Duncan Jones’s first feature film, Moon, is a sci fi space epic. You see, Duncan Jones is better known as Zowie Bowie, first son of David Bowie, whose song Space Oddity became a top five hit forty years ago. He may be best known to triviaticians as Zowie but that should change with the release of this evocative and intelligent film.

Sam Rockwell is astronaut Sam Bell, a Lunar Industries employee living and working on a space station on a three year contract. “Three years is a long haul,” he says, wearing a t-shirt that reads It’s Almost Quittin’ Time. “It’s way, way, way too long. I’m ready to go home.”

His job is to tend to machines that are “harvesting solar energy from the dark side of the moon” and providing almost 70% of earth with power. His only companion is a robot / cup holder named Gerty (voiced by the appropriately named Kevin Spacey) although he can receive taped messages from his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott). The loneliness of the job is broken, however, when he discovers that he may not be truly alone.

The comparisons to 2001 are obvious, made even more apparent by Spacey’s HAL-like delivery of his robot lines, but Jones has simply used Kubrick’s film as a visual reference on his way to creating a unique and fascinating film. Another thing he borrowed from Kubrick and many other sci-fi films of the 60s and 70s is his emphasis on ideas rather than special effects.

Michael Bay this ain’t.

It’s a deliberately paced story packed with grand themes, unusual story twists and a dark covering of creeping dread. In the middle of it all is Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, the lonely astronaut.

For a decade Rockwell has teetered on the verge of enormous mainstream success. He’s co-starred in big studio pictures with Nic Cage and George Clooney (Matchstick Men and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind respectively), earned street cred by starring in small difficult films like Choke and Snow Angels and has occasionally been the best thing in so-so movies like Joshua. He’s an inventive and fearless actor who delivers a performance in Moon that proves, once and for all, that he can carry a movie virtually by himself.

As Sam he hands in a performance ripe with longing, confusion, horror and yes, even a bit of humor.

Moon—which could easily have been retitled ***SPOILER ALERT*** The Clone Wars: This Time It’s Personal for commercial purposes—is a promising debut from a new director and a reminder of how good Sam Rockwell is.

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