PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am

Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott
Director: Duncan Jones

How appropriate it is that this film is set on the far side of the moon, for it provides the platform for two individuals to finally emerge from the shadows and showcase their artistic worth. With this engaged and poised thriller, director Duncan Jones will finally be known for more than being David Bowie's son. And Sam Rockwell can also finally take his rightful place among the best actors working today, with his fine performance as the lone and seemingly increasingly deranged caretaker of a lunar mining plant.

Films about men losing it in space are hardly new - 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running and Solaris all covered similar ground. Compared to its predecessors, Moon is like a chamber piece, both metaphorically and literally. The film only cost Jones GBP2.5 million (HK$31.5 million) to make - a meagre amount compared to past outer space blockbusters - and its story unfolds mostly within the confines of a small workstation on the lunar surface, where a shady corporation makes money by extracting helium-filled rock which could be used to generate electricity when sent back to earth.

Sam Bell (Rockwell, above) is his company's sole representative on the moon, manning the company's mechanical harvesters and with only a talking computer, Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey), for company. As the film begins, Bell is about to reach the end of his contract and is preparing to return home to his wife and daughter. His plans begin to unravel, however, when hallucinatory images appear: snatches of another version of himself appear in archive footage, a young woman appears in the station and then outside on the lunar surface, and finally a fully formed doppelganger appears before him.

It's here that Moon diverges from being merely an existential treatise on mortality and becomes a fully fledged psychological thriller. With its taut story, immaculate set designs and a determined avoidance of digital pomp, Jones shows a deftness in combining a nuanced character study with tactful storytelling. Rockwell's contribution is just as important: he carries the film and thrives on the challenge, delivering a performance that intensifies the plot.

In an age when computer-generated special effects dominate intergalactic adventure films, Moon is that rare space oddity: an intimate and moving look at alienation and technology. Extras: Whistle, Jones' short film about a hitman working through satellite systems; running commentaries; behind-the-scenes featurettes; Q&A.