Laws of gravity


WE DON’T usually look to science- fiction for nostalgia. But Duncan Jones’s brilliantly eerie debut positively buzzes with energies from earlier speculative classics.

Set on a dreary moonbase,

within which a lone worker keeps the bolts tight and mends the leaks, this low-budget British gem gestures towards Solaris(a brief hallucination), 2001: A Space Odyssey(Gerty, the base’s computer, is voiced blankly by Kevin Spacey), Silent Running(the opening shot spots our hero through a window) and Dark Star(life is just so dull there). But there’s more to it than that. The base and its technology have the clunky, functional look you’d expect to encounter on an antique tugboat.

Jones largely shuns computer- generated imagery for the sort of model work that enlivened a dozen Gerry Anderson classics. Most significantly, unlike too many contemporary futuristic shoot-’em- ups, Moonactually dares to offer us some serious intellectual roughage. Beware. There are ideas here.

The picture begins with Sam Rockwell’s phlegmatic protagonist (also called Sam) going through the tedious duties of his three-year posting. Trapped on the satellite’s dark side, Sam cannot communicate directly with Earth and must make do with taped messages. Suddenly, he finds his body going through some peculiar changes: headaches, vision problems, hallucinations. After crashing while driving on the surface, he wakes up (or so it seems) feeling considerably better. But the weirdness has only begun.

It would be a shame to spoil the central conceit, but what follows allows Rockwell to strain every acting muscle as his character encounters unwelcome truths about himself and his mission.

Far from just clocking up movie references, Jones uses the hints of 2001and Solaristo deliberately nudge the audience down some blind alleyways: Gerty sounds a little like HAL, so we assume he must be malevolent. Maybe so, maybe not.

This is not to suggest that Mooncomes across like a postmodern parlour game. Despite all the rampaging inter-textuality, the film has more heart in its quietest second than you will encounter in all two and a half, clamorous hours of Transformers 2. Indeed, Moonis so impressive it seems somewhat cheap to confirm that, yes, the director is David Bowie’s son. We promise never to mention it again, Duncan.