As the imbecile from The Stand might say, M-O-O-N spells an independent sci-fi film directed by Duncan Jones, set no more than a few decades in our future. By that time Lunar Industries, apparently an American-Korean consortium, has set up mining operations on the moon as part of a fusion energy business. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the lone person manning one of the mining sites, attended only by Gerty, a functional non-humanoid robot who speaks with the HAL-ish voice of Kevin Spacey and lamely offers emotional support to Sam by sporting smiley faces or other expressions on a display screen. Bell is near the end of his three-year contract and eager to return to Earth, but he gets into a bad accident near the perimeter of the mining camp. Sam wakes up in the infirmary in a shaky state but quickly grows suspicious about what happened outside. Gerty is reluctant to let Sam back outside until he's fully recuperated but relents when Sam threatens to wreck the station. He's only supposed to check the outside of the station for damage but heads out to the accident site. Finding the wreck of his vehicle, he finds himself (?!?) inside, barely alive and in a bad way.
Sam brings his other self back to the station and Gerty treats him in the infirmary. But the other self found in the vehicle is apparently the first Sam we saw at the start of the film, since he still wears bandages on his hand from a scalding accident we saw. This Sam (Sam I) obviously assumes that the Sam who rescued him (Sam II) is a clone, but after initial denials Sam II begins to suspect that they are both clones. The remainder of the film is their attempt, with uncertain help from Gerty, to get to the truth of things.
I don't want to go overboard complimenting what's really a modest, low-budget film that could just as well have been a SyFy original movie if SyFy actually believed in originality in its movies. But the fact that a genuine sci-fi film, not a space opera, got a theatrical release (however limited) is worthy of celebration. Moon has a few strong things going for it. One is a cleverly manipulative script that visually invokes 2001: A Space Odyssey in several ways in order to misdirect our suspicions. Another is the film's revival of craftsmanship in model work in lieu of CGI. What the model moon sets may lose in realism (and it's not that much) they gain in sheer artistry. Most importantly, Sam Rockwell does a fine job in a dual role in which he has almost nothing else to do but play off himself in variations on an original personality that may no longer exist.
Moon's modesty proves one of its main virtues. I appreciated its indifference to heavy-handed suspense and its willingness to leave some questions (particularly regarding the lifespan of clones) for viewers to figure out for themselves. This film isn't a thrill ride, but science fiction doesn't have to be. Maybe a big-budget would-be blockbuster does, but science fiction doesn't have to be that, either.