Moon (2009)

Director:  Duncan Jones
Cast:  Sam RockwellKevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott
Plot:  Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.

Genre:  Drama / Sci-Fi
Awards:  Won 1 BAFTA - Outstanding Debut by British Filmmaker.  Nom. for 1 BAFTA - Outstanding British Film.
Runtime:  97min
Rating:  PG for language.

“I hope life on Earth is everything you remember it to be.

Moon marks the feature debut of Duncan Jones, the latest kid on the block with an incredible talent for science-fiction filmmaking.  Along with Neill Blomkamp of the acclaimed sci-fi actioner District 9 (2009), Jones is one to look out for in the near future.

Just as the late 70s and 80s brought us an era of truly great science-fiction films from influential directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and George Lucas, more than thirty years on it now seems to have turned full circle. Is this the dawn of another sci-fi age?

For hard-core fans of the genre, it is easy to guess which film most inspired Jones to create Moon, a brilliant, thought-provoking space drama directed with skill and craft.  Yes it is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  The use of hand-made miniature models set in a backdrop of empty darkness and the occasional blinking stars echoes Kubrick’s pioneering technique.

Moreover, the art direction and set design of the interiors of the holding base in space (in this case on the lunar surface) largely resemble what is seen in Kubrick’s film as well as Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).

The comparisons do not stop there. Jones has shot Moon with a deliberate, slow pacing.  The camera is often in motion, drawing viewers into the construct of its frame, pulling us into an alternate world where isolation rules.  In Moon, most shots center on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only major human character in the film (the other being GERTY, a HAL-like computer mechanically voiced by Kevin Spacey).

Sam works for Lunar Industries which provides energy to 70% of the world’s population through the use of the moon’s resources.  He is entering the final weeks of a three-year contract which requires him to man an outpost on the moon alone.

Rockwell gives a solid performance that calls for a wide range of feelings.  He aces the role and becomes the fulcrum in which the film relies on for emotional balance.  Moon’s character study on Sam is generally excellent.  Years of isolation can negatively affect our conscience and judgment. In the film, Sam hallucinates and gets himself into trouble.  He wakes up to see a clone of himself.

Is this real?  Is the clone real?  Is myself real?  Moon explores psychological themes such as the state of being as well as the issue on the use of science and technology (i.e. cloning) for capital gains at the expense of human rights.

The introduction of Sam’s clone in the second-quarter drastically changes the trajectory of the narrative; it does complicate things and will confuse the average viewer.  The key is to focus and think abstractly.  The director does not offer much explanation to why things are happening this or that way, but he does enough to create a climate that facilitates deep thinking.

Moon may run less than a hundred minutes, but it packs plenty of concepts and ideas that are free to different interpretations.  It is a highly intellectual film of top-notch standard (accompanied by a hypnotic score by Clint Mansell), and in my opinion, deserves to be one of the best pictures of the year.


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