Blame it on George Lucas, but sci-fi today usually means the space Western: interstellar chases, ray-gun shootouts, weird lurking monsters, and girls in tight costumes. Yee-haw! Duncan Jones' simple, thoughtful feature debut lacks all those elements. There's basically one character, one actor, and one setting: a battered mining station on the dark side of the moon. For company, beyond the occasional family video message, lonely Sam (Sam Rockwell) can talk to his polite helper robot (voiced by Kevin Spacey, perfectly cast). But Sam isn't well. His three-year contract has worn him down, physically and mentally. Even before he can return home—two weeks to go!—his corporate employer is demanding higher isotope production for the energy crisis back on Earth. Even in space, you can't escape the blue-collar grind. The less you know about Moon, obviously inspired by the pre–Star Wars bookshelf of Philip K. Dick and company, the better it works. Don't listen to your friends who saw it at SIFF, since there are very big spoilers involved. (And never mind that Jones is David Bowie's son, because that really isn't relevant.) Often cast as the goofball or hillbilly psycho, Rockwell here is the working stiff, a gentle guy who finds his soul being split in two. He can't separate himself from the assembly line. In its modest way, Moon doesn't present Sam as a tragic prole or space hero. But he affectingly conveys that uneasy feeling that you're replaceable—whether on the moon or in your cubicle.
Rockwell just wants to go home.
Opens at Metro and Harvard Exit, Fri., July 3. Rated R. 97 minutes.Read Brian Miller's interview with director Duncan Jones.