I wanted to applaud this film when the credits rolled at the end because it’s so intelligent, and self-contained and well-made and… elegant. Like a clever little short-story of a film which fired off all sorts of ideas in my head when I left the theatre.
Too many other reviewers have tried to make strained David-Bowie connections when discussing it. Instead I will make a strained Douglas-Adams connection:
The last time I saw Sam Rockwell in a film; in this one he has two heads too (and four arms).
He plays (rather well), two of himself. As you might have already gathered from the trailer, the story is that he’s working alone on an isolated Moon base, suffers an accident and wakes up to find that there’s two of him. And then, not wanting to give the plot away, Stuff Happens.
I really don’t want to give the plot away. I mean, it’s not like The Mousetrap or anything, but it’s quite a clever little story, and worth watching in ignorance, I feel.
Kevin Spacey voices the Moon-base computer, Gerty. It almost seems like he’s trying to copy HAL’s intonation from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and there’s the camera-eye with the expressive iris, and Kevin Spacey does ‘unsettling’ quite well, and Gerty’s always going on about how his only desire is to keep Sam safe… so I’m spoiling nothing by telling you that Gerty is entirely benign. (It’s exactly the old Bishop gambit: why the android in Aliens turns out to not a murderous psychopath like you were expecting.) You’ll like the computer. I did. Makes you feel good about Tomorrow’s artificial brains. Some of them are actually quite decent sorts.
Sam Rockwell (playing a character also called Sam, Sam Bell), is fantastic. The two Sams are nicely distinguished and—odd as this may sound—play off each other very well. They play table tennis at one point, which is a bit show-offy of the special effects people but for most of the film, (and this is saying a lot), I didn’t really think about the effects trickery and just enjoyed the performance(s).
The desolate landscape of the Moon is beautiful, (though, due to the almost exclusive use of miniatures rather than CGI, the vehicles look a little like they came out of a Gerry Anderson show—probably CGI dust and dirt would have looked more to scale).
In fact, my only real criticism of the film is the pacing towards the end. They seem to zip back and forth across the lunar landscape awfully quickly. Could have slowed the pace a bit. Also, as another reviewer mentions, the script introduces a Scary Countdown Timer at the end “because we need one dramatically, not because the driving idea has made it urgent or inevitable”.
Also, there are a couple of plot holes, but the whole package is so well executed that I didn’t really mind them.
All in all, I’d give it a 9/10.
Incidentally, When I was leaving the cinema, they must have been playing the trailer for the film on the screens in the lobby, so the music over the credits seemed to follow me out of the cinema. Very strange sensation. Rather appropriate to the film, actually.