- Movie Rating -

Moon (2009)

| August 31, 2009 | 0 Comments

Moon is the rare kind science fiction picture that comes along every once in a while and reminds us that the impact of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is not dead. The hard reality of intelligent science fiction has been replaced by spectacular comic book non-sense pried more from the special effects department then from the gray matter. Here is a movie that, for 99% of its running time, is occupied by one astronaut trying to wrap his head around the most unbelievable circumstance. It is a brainy thriller for that tiny audience still interested in such things.

The movie stars Sam Rockwell in a very good performance as Sam Bell, a contracted worker for Lunar Industries who has spent the last three years working on the Sarang lunar base where he is in charge of harvesters that send minerals back to earth to be used as cold fusion energy. As we might expect, Sam’s three-year hitch is about to come to an end and he is excited about returning to his wife Tess and their now three year-old daughter.

Sam spends all of his time alone. His only means of human contact come from transmitted communications from back home, from Tess and occasionally from the execs at Lunar Industries. His onboard helper is an odd machine named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), a bulky machine that follows him around, talks to him in a flat monotone and has facial expressions that appear as emoticons on a tiny screen.

The description might make Moon sound like just a carbon copy of 2001, but something else is afoot. After Sam crashes his lunar rover into the harvester, he begins seeing things. Things are out of place, not quite right and for reasons we don’t quite expect. We might expect that they all have to do with GERTY, that this creepy machine is just HAL with a smiley face, but this movie is anything but predictable as the screenplay offers a cleverly-paced building mystery.

The trouble with reviewing this film is the danger of revealing too much. To spoil what happens after Sam crashes into that harvester would be an act of cruelty simply because, from the point, the movie never goes where we expect it to go. What is most tantalizing about Moon is the way is builds Sam’s predicament, a piece at a time, like a card trick that is only slowly revealed. There are no laser guns here, no lightsabers. no aliens, there aren’t even any actions scenes (except a fist-fight that has to be seen to be believed), just a guy in an extremely bizarre circumstance trying to get a handle on the moment.

This is the first feature from writer-director Duncan Jones who I hope doesn’t lose his edge as a screenwriter. His screenplay has the patience and the intelligence to tell the story as it unfolds rather than make everything clear at the beginning. We learn Sam’s plight as he does, and it is just as surprising to us as it is to him. Credit should go to the film’s production designer who creates the interiors of that space station with its tight corridors and its surgical white walls. We feel as confined as Sam, sharing his claustrophobia and his paranoia.

Moon is one of those little films that you discover and want to tell everyone about. The problem is that, in order to avoid spoiling the surprises, you can’t really tell them why. This is one of those movies that incites long conversations afterward about life and death, about the meaning of humanity and what constitutes the qualifications to be a human being.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.