Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the sole operator of a moon-based mining station in the not-so-distant future. All he has for entertainment is his model-building. All he has for company is the shipboard computer Gertie, who speaks in an eerily calm voice (of Kevin Spacey), not unlike 2001‘s Hal. He is nearing the end of his three-year contract and itching to get back to his wife and child, from whom he occasionally receives video messages.
After a severe injury off-base, Sam awakes to find that while his mission is what it seems, his circumstances are not. Dun dun dun! But debut director Duncan Jones approaches the strangeness with such quietness and almost apathy, it is refreshing. Part of this is achieved by giving Sam hallucinations toward the beginning of the film, which means neither he nor we as viewers entirely accept the oddities that creep in (also taking in to account Sam’s head injury). Another part of this is achieved by Sam’s distraction with wanting to get home to his wife. He only has two more weeks here, so maybe if he ignores the peculiar situation, he can get home unscathed. But, it turns out that the fact that his model village was started by someone else before he arrived three years ago and that Gertie can speak with Earth on a live feed whereas Sam is told the technology is not capable of live feed are entirely relevant mysteries that should not be ignored. Jones lulls us in with familiar sci-fi tropes and then lulls the rug out thread by thread until we are left with an altogether original and brilliantly pieced together film with no loose ends or contrived plot elements.
A tip of the hat also needs to go to Sam Rockwell who carries the entire movie. Not only is he always a brilliant actor but he had a big hand in steering the direction of this film. If you are like me and mourn the lack of good science fiction films which are not simply action films in space, this will restore your faith in the genre.