Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works on the dark side of the moon. He’s approaching the end of a three-year stint monitoring the mining of helium-3, a mineral whose solarized properties have provided a solution to our energy crisis. Bell has the beard of a Robinson Crusoe and a Friday companion in the form of a computer named Gerty. Gerty is voiced by Kevin Spacey, doing his best paranoid android. In one of the film’s many smart touches, the computer’s face is a stiffly animated emoticon. In spite of the company, Bell is going a little stir crazy. He creates dialogues for his plants and works on building a matchstick model of his hometown that he can’t remember starting.
The first part of director Duncan Jones’s debut feature has an eerie quality. The strange nature of satellite time is created using temporal ellipses, strangely placed fades and sound bridges. These early scenes sometimes end too early or go on too long, which makes sense. Bell is a one-man show where there’s no audience and no one to play off. He watches video messages left for him by his wife Tess (the very attractive Dominique McElligott), but we’re not sure if he’s watching them in chronological order. He can’t communicate earth directly due to faulty mechanics.