(I realize that the title short for Moon isn't exactly the same, but you have to admit there are some similarities.)
It took maybe 5 more minutes of watching this film, however, that I came to realize it was nothing at all like Kubrick's Odyssey. This was a film all its' own. Sam Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, an average guy who happens to work at a space station on the moon, collecting a new kind of fuel for the Earth. He's been there for 3 years, all alone, with only a computer named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) to keep him company (which did remind me a little of HAL at some points, until you realize that he isn't anything like HAL either.) Sam is doing everything he can to stay sane as he only has 2 weeks left on the moon, but the isolation begins to get to him. He gives proper names to all the computers and monitors in the station (all bearing biblical names like Mark and Luke and Judas) and even speaks to his plants, to whom he's even given some kind of life story to.
That's honestly as far as I think any reviewer can go without giving away too much (and thankfully the people who created the trailer were wise enough to keep most of the story out of the trailer as well.) From there, Sam begins to lose it. He sees things and hears things that aren't there (or are they?) and pretty soon it's obvious that Sam is spiraling down mentally and emotionally. Rockwell had an extremely difficult and complex character to play, having to teeter between hopelessness and determination, being completely alone and then keeping himself company, being the rock upon which he has to stand. The film works on many levels. For one, it addresses to what lengths we're willing to go for science, or perhaps more succinctly to what lengths we're willing to go for our own selfishness. It explores the desperation that comes along with extreme isolation, not only in a physical way but in an emotional way as well. It also brings about that need to hold on to our humanity, to feel as Sam puts it to Gerty at one point, that we "can't be programmed," regardless of the circumstances.
The film would not work so well if it weren't for Clint Mansell, though. The composer/musician is truly one of the great kings of mood-setting. He's penned the score for other phenomenal films such as Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and The Wrestler. He truly outdoes himself with Moon, though. There's something terribly hypnotic, hopeful, and intense about the music that plays throughout the film, chiming in at all the right moments with just the right amount of ferocity. Mansell's score is what ties the whole mood of the film together, truly.
For director Duncan Jones, there is no way of escaping the fact that he is David Bowies' son, and that it will always raise questions as to how influenced he's been by his father. I've read a few reviews now mentioning the possibly allusions to Bowie's song Space Oddity. I think i'll have to jump on the bandwagon and say that at the very least I can see a little of Major Tom in Sam Bell. But honestly, the film has so many more dimensions, so many more plot twists that I think Jones has created something all his own. Jones has created a character that could only exist in our time, one that is on the cusp of the present and the future, who embodies what we might become someday.
Thank you, Duncan Jones, for giving us an unforgettable science fiction film that might one day be science itself. Thank you, Sam Rockwell, for giving this performance your all. It really showed. It's a film that makes you want to keep believing, right up to the very end.