Stationed on the dark side of the lunar surface - some time in the future - Sam is a contractor for the company Lunar Industries. Working by himself, his job is to extract helium-3 from the soil for much-needed clean energy back on Earth.
It is a lonely life of solitude, having no direct contact with any other living soul for almost three years, not least of all his young wife, Tess (Dominique McElligott), and their daughter, Eve. All he has for company is GERTY, a robot/computer assistant that is voiced by Kevin Spacey and has a mildly expressive ‘smiley face’.
As well as sci-fi classics like Soylent Green (1973) and Outland (1980), you can certainly sense a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in Moon, and it obviously borrows from the sci-fi classic, especially when GERTY is found to be hiding some important information from his ‘housemate’, ala HAL and Dave Bowman.
But, despite the darkness of the surrounds, fragments of that particular info come to light when Sam crashes his rover while out on a routine mission to collect a canister of helium-3 from an automated harvester. Initially presumed dead, Sam soon wakes up in the infirmary back at the base.
Having trouble walking, but the massive cuts on his forehead seemingly already healed, Sam eavesdrops on a live communication between GERTY and Lunar Industry executives – even though he is told live communications are not possible due to a damaged link.
The plot thickens when Sam, after tricking GERTY into allowing him outside of the base before he has fully recovered, returns to the damaged rover and finds … shock! horror! … himself lying in the cockpit, with injuries, such as a battered and bruised face, he should be sporting.
By this stage no one – Sam and the audience – can only guess what the hell is going on. Is Sam hallucinating? Hallucinations are after all what got him into this situation in the first place. Earlier he had seen the image of a teenage girl sitting on a chair in the base and then again in the distance while he was driving the rover.
When the two Sams begin interacting with each other things become a little clearer. While the second Sam, the one just pulled out of the rover, continues his recuperation, the other Sam puts two and two together … and comes up with one.
One Sam Bell. But which one is which? Who is the clone? Who isn’t?
Obviously not cut from the same cloth as 2001’s HAL, a surprisingly sympathetic GERTY tells the still recovering, battered and bruised Sam the full story.
They are in fact both clones. Sam 5 and Sam 6 to be precise.
Sam 1 was the original ‘genuine’ Sam Bell and he is safe and sound on Earth with his now teenage daughter. Sams 2, and 4 all served their three-year terms, but were ruthlessly incinerated at the completion just when they thought they were entering a pod to be beamed back to Earth.
Sam 6 was awakened from a secret chamber beneath the base by GERTY when it became apparent that Sam 5 was not coming back from his mission. A rescue crew was also sent from Earth to extract the dead Sam.
It is unknown how many more Sams there really are, ready to take over the role when the previous Sam begins to break down as they do after three years, but that chamber holding them was pretty bloody long.
There is at least a third Sam that becomes entangled in the other Sams’ plot to escape the moon and reveal to the world Lunar Industries’ bad business practice – cheaper to make human clones than keep sending workers from Earth.
From newcomer director Duncan Jones, the son of David Bowie, and screenwriter Nathan Parker, the low-budget, independently-made Moon is an intriguing, even gripping at times, piece of cinema, resembling an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits from the 1960s ... but a bit longer and without the ads, and certainly more stylish.
The story is easy to follow, and has just enough in the tank to keep it flowing to the very end. There’s plenty to keep your mind ticking over even after the ruse has been uncovered quite some distance from the finale.
Costing roughly $5 million, Moon is old-fashioned sci-fi movie-making at its best. Refreshing in this day and age, there’s no CGI, just models and sets.
Rockwell takes the film that little bit further. He is pretty much a one-man band here and, if not for his commanding performances of slight variations of the one character, the movie may not have received the applause it has richly deserved.
Rockwell, who will soon be seen in Ironman 2, may not have quite conquered Earth just yet, but he is certainly the hero of Moon.
Sam Rockwell plays the clone, and plays it well.