Duncan Jones’ Moon, is already a sci-fi classic.
What I Remembered: I first saw Moon about a year after it was released. Being an occasional sci-fi viewer, I thought that the concept of it was intriguing. Furthermore, I find that when a science fiction film is good it can be very illuminating and reveal the true talent of the directors and actors in the film. After all, a well executed movie in that genre has to make a world that is not real or based on any historical or present context, feel real. So, with that in mind know nothing of the director, Duncan Jones, but having great respect for Sam Rockwell after seeing him in Matchstick Men, I was interested in seeing where the movie would go. I came away very impressed as it was not only expertly written, acted, and directed, but was filled with many insights and some tributes to classics like 2001. Having watched it again very recently, my esteem for it has only grown.
The Story: Moon is set in the year 2035. A company known as Lunar Industries has been able to solve all of the Earth’s energy problems by sending astronauts to the Moon and mining a new energy source called Helium 3. In order to cut expenses, the company has developed a program of sending one astronaut at a time to the Moon, and having that astronaut stay there for a three year period. While on the Moon, the astronaut is responsible for mining the Helium 3 and then sending it to Earth in a space capsule. The astronauts live on a base that has been constructed on the far side of the moon.
As Moon opens, it is here that we meet Sam Bell (Rockwell). Sam is nearing the end of his three year rotation with Lunar Industries and is eager to get back to earth to his wife Tess, and their young daughter, Eve. He has presently lost the live feed that the company was sending him so his only contact with the outside world is through a series of prerecorded video messages. Most of these are from his family and keep him going. His only contact within the base is GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) an artificial intelligence who acts as a kind of caretaker to him. GERTY does everything from cutting Sam’s hair, to administering his medication, to preparing his meals, to even assessing his psychological well-being. As a result, GERTY is a great comfort to Sam.
It is implied that the years of continual isolation have begun to take their toll, though. Sam has occasional hallucinations involving a teenage girl, treats the plants that he must tend to as if they’re people by giving them names like Katherine, and by his own admission, is concerned about how much he talks to himself. One morning when Sam has to leave the compound to go onto the lunar surface to fix a problem with the equipment that is used for mining he has an accident in his lunar rover and is rendered unconscious. He awakens some time later, back on the base with GERTY checking on him. Once Sam begins to recover from the accident he will come to learn some disturbing truths and come to realize that everything he thought he knew about his mission, his company, his family, and himself has been wrong.
Technical Details: On a technical level, Moon was almost flawless. Duncan Jones direction was pitch perfect. (It was hard to believe that this was his feature debut. But, after learning that he was the son of the now late and amazing, David Bowie, I was not surprised.) He created the atmosphere of isolation on the Moon with such realism and detail that it was almost awe inspiring. Moreover, he and Nathan Parker penned a top notch story and script. Additionally, Moon was well edited and paced as it moved along nicely with many unexpected twists and turns. Finally, the movie provided some wonderful insights about the dangers of isolation, and the questionable ethical practices that science can engage in in the name of bettering humanity.
However without question, the lifeblood of Moon were Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. Rockwell’s acting was phenomenal considering the fact that he was almost the only face seen throughout the entire piece and watching him never got boring. I was waiting with baited breath to see what he was going to do and what was going to happen next, which is no easy feat. This is a great credit to his enormous talent.
Similarly, although I only heard his voice, Kevin Spacey delivered a fine performance as GERTY. He was able to give this piece of artificial intelligence such a life and- for lack of a better word- a humanity that was endearing. Lastly, the fact that GERTY was the polar opposite of HAL in 2001, was a nice touch as well.
End Credits: Moon is an excellent film not just for its genre. It is an excellent film, period. If you like science fiction films, you’ll love it. If you appreciate great acting, you’ll probably love it, too. If you’re interested in world class film making the picture is a great lesson in how it is done. So, you should take a look at Moon if you have a chance. I highly doubt that you will be disappointed.