Moon (2009): ***½
Directed by Duncan Jones
Moon is a great science fiction movie that I thoroughly enjoyed
and will try very, very, very hard to review without including any
spoilers. But even saying that much lets you know that there is
something to spoil. Hmmm... this is going to be difficult.
I can at least say the basic premise that gets set up in the first
couple of minutes of the film. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a man
who is finishing up a three-year job as the sole caretaker of a
mostly-automated Helium-3 mining facility on the moon. His only
companion is GERTIE, the somewhat-mobile computer (voiced by Kevin
Spacey) of the station. The mining company's communications satellite
has been damaged the whole of Sam's stay on the station, so he hasn't
had any actual live conversations with anyone, only recorded messages
traded back and forth with the corporate people and his wife (who
got pregnant around the time Sam left, but they didn't know until
he was already on the moon) and the daughter he's never seen face-to-face.
Sam only has a very few days left before he gets to go back to
Earth. And, understandably, he's getting a little loopy. And then...
Well, that's really all that I can say about what happens. But,
dammit, even saying that much lets you know that something happens.
This entire movie hinges on Sam Rockwell's performance as Sam Bell.
And it is a fascinating, funny, and very good performance. If you
don't like Sam Rockwell then I urge you to stay away from this movie,
because he's in almost every single frame of it. And it's a performance
that raises some great psychology. He really effectively portrays
a smart but simple man put in a very difficult situation. Sam Bell
isn't an extraordinary person. He's just a regular guy with his
own set of problems and no special insight about how to deal with
them. If you have only yourself to keep you company, well, what
if you don't like yourself very much? Why would a married man agree
to three years of solitary confinement? How much would three years
of solitary change you? Would you come out a better man? Or worse?
Kevin Spacey is also great as the calm and reasonable GERTIE, and
the computer's simple emoticon interface is a stroke of production-design
genius. It results in some really funny moments as well as some
really creepy ones.
I really enjoyed the lunar surface cinematography and special effects.
Zowie Bowie — sorry, I mean Duncan Jones — opted away
from making the moon look glamorous or beautiful. It is a harsh,
monochromatic, desolate location. When you see it in this movie
it looks stark, harsh, and like you're looking at a landscape of
death. This moon really is a harsh mistress.
Moon is a first-rate science fiction movie that uses familiar,
recognizable science fiction tropes to examine the human condition,
rather than using them just to blow shit up real good. Anyone who
has any exposure to any sci-fi at all will be instantly familiar
with pretty much everything in the film, which is good; it lets
you move past all the science stuff and focus on the psychology
and story. Even though all of the sci-fi tropes are familiar, there
are still a couple of very clever parts that made me smile, especially
towards the end. Like much heady science fiction, though, it does
require quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. The main idea seems
really impractical and risky. Would that really be the best way
to do it? But if you can accept the basic situation, then the whole
movie clicks right into place.
There. I don't think I gave very much away. So now go see it and