Yesterday afternoon, we had a rare treat, with the grandparents taking care of Vivian and Nora, Erin and I decided to go see a movie.
The flick we picked is one you might not have seen. Moon, directed by Duncan Jones, has had limited publicity, saving for some buzz at the science fiction fan sites. We caught the film at the end of a limited release in a community art house theatre. The Fleur Cinema and Caf√©, incidentally, is a wonderful place, with excellent ticket prices and good popcorn. If we had that just down the street in Kitchener, we’d go to movies more often. We do have the Princess, but that’s a bit more of a trek.
Anyway, Moon is a hard science-fiction story that goes in a different direction from the fantasy action flicks of late. It’s a film that plays off its limitations in the way a quality production would, if it had half of this film’s budget (or maybe not even half its budget; Moon cost a paltry $5 million to make). The thoughtful script challenges you, and though the final product is understated, it’s no less hard hitting.
Moon starts with astronaut Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), living alone on a mining base at the far side of the moon. He’s two weeks shy from completing his three-year mission, and he’s more than a little bit batty as a result. All he has for company is the moonbase’s computer Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey who, as a friend would say, is channelling his inner HAL), and taped messages from his wife and three-year-old daughter back on Earth. Despite the fact that the moonbase has clearly been designed by fans of 2001, its landlord, Lunar Enterprises, has been doing things on the cheap. The communications’ satellite which promises a live feed from Earth has been offline for three years, and so messages from Earth have to be taped and bounced off of Jupiter.
Things begin to go wrong when Sam starts getting headaches and develops hallucinations. Then, while visiting one of the roving machines that are stripmining the far side of the moon (some excellent effects shots there), he has a near-fatal accident.
The next thing we see, Sam wakes up back at the base infirmary, with no knowledge of how he got there. After a few days of taped messages from Lunar Enterprises, and entreaties by Gerty, telling him not to go outside, Sam disobeys orders, and finds the rover he crashed in… and himself. Bringing his wounded self back to base, he’s unable to get satisfactory answers from Gerty, who is clearly hiding something. Has Sam been cloned? Is he hallucinating? Or is something more sinister at work?
It’s a testament to the ability of actor Sam Rockwell that he is able to essentially carry this ninety-minute movie talking to himself. Director Duncan Jones helps with a taut directoral effort that plays up the claustrophobia of the base (the musical score helps, knowing just when to show itself, and when to stay away), but Rockwell himself displays a considerable range for his character of Sam Bell. It is amazing seeing how two people, who are in reality one person, can be so different and so similar at the same time. Mention should also be made of Kevin Spacey’s deadpan delivery as the mobile computer Gerty (and of the designer’s decision to have the machine emote with happy faces). The machine gets a lot of character development here, and almost threatens to steal the show.
But the star of this production is the script, which keeps you guessing right up to the very end, while employing a minimum of tricks to get you there (there’s one trick, and it’s a big one, but it’s forgivable once you see the final product). The ending reminded me a little of The Truman Show, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at what Sam Bell unleashes onto the world.
Moon is a solid science fiction production that relies heavily on suspense. It’s not your standard shoot-em-up, and I think we’re the better for it. It is well worth seeing, especially at the second run theatres, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you will need to rent the DVD. You won’t regret it.
- Daily Californian: “Unlike many sci-fi flicks, enjoying it isn’t predicated on being surprised by plot twists or gimmicks, and there are hardly any special effects. It is the outstanding performance from Sam Rockwell that elevates a decently written movie into a great film.”
- Buzzine: “Overall, this is not just a science fiction film. Moon captures everything that’s good about storytelling. It has a compelling plot, multi-faceted characters and an eerie mystery that everyone will want to follow to its conclusion.”