July 12, 2009

Movie Review: Moon

moon2_largeDirected by and based on a story by David Bowie's son, Moon is a wonderful accomplishment for a first time feature director. It is a mature and assured tale that offers so much content for discussion packed into a brief and leisurely paced run time. It is a film that finds itself at the crossroads of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Event Horizon. While it finds itself at those crossroads, making a deal with the devil, it is not merely a greatest hits mash of what we already know, it is a bold and original vision that delivers a mesmerising experience at the cinema. It is a great example of what intelligent hard science fiction can be, a great defense for a genre that has been overrun by effects, fantasy, and a general lack of logic (not that it is always a bad thing).

Going in to Moon, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. Considering the very limited release I had seen the trailer once, knew I wanted to see it, but had no idea what it was really going to be about. In the end, I guess it did matter much as I knew it would be something I would be into.

moon10The movie definitely proved interesting. It is the sort of film that sneaks up on you, draws you in, makes you interested, and then is over. It is not an action film, it is not a fast paced film, it is one that allows the story to slowly unfold over the course of its run time, seeping into your brain, making you curious as to where it is going or what the meaning of it all is.

In the near future, possibly the same world that 2001 was set in, a new fuel for energy is discovered on the moon. It is called Helium3 and is used to fuel clean nuclear fusion. A mining facility has been set up on the dark side of the moon and is almost completely automated. The station is manned by a crew of one, and that person signs on for a three year stint, ensuring everything runs smoothly, tends to maintenance and repairs, but otherwise is left to entertain himself in the well-stocked base.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of his contract, and it could come soon enough. The man is on the verge of breaking down. Three years in isolation, save the HAL-like presence of the base computer GERTY (voice of Kevin Spacey), can be trying on a person's mind. Sam is beginning to see things as he goes about his day. Is he losing his mind? No, h is just tiring of being so utterly alone, his only connection with Earth being recorded messages from his wife and his superiors. Sounds like enough to drive anyone batty.

moon11It is an interesting idea, to examine the effects of isolation, of being surrounded by technology with no other meaningful human contact over an extended period of time. Three years is a long time and Sam Rockwell does a fine job of showing how there can wear a mind down, seeing things and talking to himself being a couple of big factors. However, this is only part of the story, and just a small part at that.

One day, Sam heads out in a rover to investigate a potential problem with one of the automated mining vehicles. En route, same gets distracted resulting in a bad accident. Sam then wakes up in sick bay on the base, wondering what happened. This is where it begins to get strange. As you know from the trailer, another Sam shows up on the base. Is this a copy? A figment of his fractured imagination? Something else altogether?

This is the sort of movie that the wrong detail given in the right place can ruin it for the potential viewer. So, with that said, I am going to decline to give any more hard details. This is the kind of film that is best to see clean, avoid whatever detail you can and allow the film to work its magic.

moon14Director Duncan Jones, who also wrote the story that Nathan Parker based his screenplay on, does a wonderful job of keeping the story interesting. He plants a number of question seeds throughout that will make you wonder if what you thought you knew is accurate or not. It is an intelligent film that requires audience participation. If you just let the story unfold and wash over you as a passive observer, you may like it, but you never be sure of what you know. You need to be an active participant, picking up on the clues dropped throughout to point you towards the truth. I think. Trying to figure out the truth is like trying to hit a moving target that you can't see.

Much of the credit needs to be given to Sam Rockwell. He gives a powerful, multifaceted performance that will make affect you. He perfectly embodies the fractured persona of Sam Bell. Quite simply, he carries the emotional weight of the movie, a quietly charismatic and easy going presence on the screen delivering a performance you will not be able to look away from.

Bottomline. Powerful movie, one that everyone should see, although I suspect many will not be able to become absorbed by it. It is a quiet, slow moving film that does not go in the direction that I expected. It is a case of a story being told the way it wants to be told rather than by the expectations.

Highly recommended.


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