Thursday, April 22, 2010


Director: Duncan Jones
Year 2009

Moon is a spectacular film by first time feature director Duncan Jones. The film centers around an astronaut named Sam Bell, played by the intriguingly entertaining Sam Rockwell, who works on a remote base on the moon alongside a computer named GERTY, who is voiced by Kevin Spacey. His employer is a faceless company named Lunar Industries and they've commissioned him to a 3 year contract to extract an element called helium-3 from the lunar soil. He obtains the helium-3 material and ships it off to Earth, which helps generate a large portion of the worlds power supply. When we are introduced to Sam, he is nearing the last few days of his contract and is looking forward to heading back to earth to be with his wife and young daughter.

Sam Rockwell as astronaut Sam Bell.

The design and overall look of this film is based on some of Duncan Jones' favorite science fiction films from the 70's like Sean Connery's sci-fi high noon mirrored film Outland, the eco-friendly 1972 film Silent Running, and Ridley Scott's science fiction horror epic Alien. Duncan lovingly blends all of these visual concepts and tonal themes and presents them in a modern setting bringing about its own original style, yet he keeps the spirit of those classic films intact. As a fan of all of those movies and the sophisticated sensibility that they bring, I greatly appreciate what Duncan has accomplished with this film.

Earth being mooned by the Moon. The cheeky bastard!

There is also a strong resemblance with Stanley Kubrick's unparalleled masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, through the incorporation of the super computer GERTY. There are strong shades of Odyssey's HAL 9000 in GERTY's personality and feel, but Duncan is able to create something of his own and give the computer personality a visual representation of his various moods. This is a rather large difference from HAL's blank red light stare. The various icons that GERTY displays are quite entertaining and rather cute, for a super computer. It adds to the overall feel of the film and gives the space station that Sam is inhabiting a unique presence of its own.

GERTY giving his best blue steel impression.

Another great aspect of Moon that Duncan has brought to the table is the use of miniatures for all of the exterior shots outside of the space station on the moon's surface. This is definitely a great way to pay homage to those classic films of the 70's and it brings that same esthetic to mind when viewing the models of the moon tracker vehicles as they trek across the barren and crater filled landscape. The models are amazingly done and crafted with such care, making the film look like it's worth a hell of a lot more then they budgeted it to be. Your appreciation for the practical skill used in making these models will be quite impressionable when witnessing the many sweeping pans that Duncan uses as he follows the moon trackers on their journey across the moon's surface.

A stunning shot of one of the many miniatures
used in the production of this beautiful film.

Throughout the film we are given some strange instances where Sam believes he sees something that isn't there. Sometimes he'll see a woman standing in the corner of the room, but when he looks again, the person is gone. Then when on one of his moon tracker rides, he thinks he sees a shaggy version of himself on the video monitor giving one of his diary entries. These glimpses into his weary mind are a hint of things to come and eventually are explained in a most fantastic and explicable way that it really adds to the charm of this film. Rockwell does an amazing job with all that his character has to go through, emotionally and as well as physically as the film progresses.

You talking to me punk? The squinty stare of Sam Rockwell.

The plot of the film really gets going once Sam's character crashes his moon tracker after seeing a woman standing in his path on the moon's surface. He swerves to get out of the way but ends up crashing into one of his mineral deposit trucks, sending him to waking up in the infirmary with only faint memories of the horrible accident. This simple accident and resulting headache that Sam feels is anything but ordinary, later bringing about a startling realization for his character. These moments of mystery are wonderful and Duncan sets things up so that you really don't know what to expect next.

Quit being a baby and take your medicine.

After Sam wakes up in the sick bay, he realizes that one of the harvesters are inoperable and he wants to know why, but GERTY keeps giving him the run around as he avoids Sam's every question. GERTY has forbidden him to leave the compound, but Sam finds a way around his grounding to the station and suits up to investigate the broken harvester. When he arrives he comes to the shocking realization that he isn't alone on this rock. For me I knew the premise to the film and found out about the twist that occurs early on in the story, but knowing this never took away from the movie for me, because it is in fact that good of a film. If you want to go into this movie with a somewhat fresh look, then I suggest you stop reading and just watch the film for yourself. You won't be disappointed and I've set up enough to hopefully intrigue you into buying it yourself. For the brave ones that are still with me, lets see where this wild ride takes us.

There are some impressive and dream like visuals throughout
the film. Break on through to the other side man.

As Sam reaches the broken harvester he is presented with a startling sight. He finds a barely alive man that looks exactly like him in the drivers seat of the vehicle. Sam brings the man back to the station and has GERTY run tests on him to help him recuperate. After finding this man, you can feel a sense of paranoia in Sam's character as he tries to piece the puzzles together on this man's existence. The premise is very intriguing and it's made all the more believable by Rockwell's performance as both estranged men. This is one of the many reasons why Duncan Jones hand picked Sam Rockwell for this very role and tailored it around his unique talents as an actor. Stupendous choice for this character driven science fiction story.

Sam Rockwell keeping a watchful eye on Sam Rockwell. Weird.

The opportunity of having two Sam Rockwell's performing in your film is used to a great extent, bringing a nice comedic flavor to the film as we watch the two interact with each other. One of the more memorable scenes is when both Sams play ping pong against each other and the one that was found in the harvester is much more adept at playing the game then the newly awakened Sam. These subtle hints on the differences of the two are rampant throughout the film and they guide us to the inevitable truth about each characters origins.

Sam vs. Sam. The grudge match from hell!

As the story begins to unfold some more, we start to see that not everything is as it seems at this space station. There is a sinister under current throughout the company that commissions Sam's character and there is a strong feeling that they have something to do with this extra version of himself. For some reason they can't make any outside transmissions and both Sams vow to get to the bottom of it. They both journey out in opposite directions in hopes of finding some clues into what is going on. It's an interesting type of mystery where two identical characters are able tackle a common goal and follow the clues to the same conclusion.

A scene made for the musical stylings
of Journey as they play Separate Ways.

As each character goes off in search of the cause for their blocked transmissions, they are each given a time to reflect on all that is going on and realize how truly alone they are on this barren landscape with Earth so far away but always watching. The Sam that had just woken up feels brand new and every experience that he has seems as if it's his first, where the Sam that was in the accident feels weary and at the end of his days, worn from years of isolation. It's amazing that these two totally different characters are portrayed by just one actor and Sam Rockwell does what I think he was made to do in this film. He creates two sympathetic characters with two totally different dispositions and outlooks on life. It's great to see it all play out and it's commendable to Rockwell as an actor to be able to give such diverse performances all centered between two mirror images that were cut from the same cloth.

Sam reflects on his very existence as
he's lost in the stars. The man is deep.

There are also some strong emotional performances by Rockwell in this film. We can see this when the injured Sam begins to realize that his life could be one big lie as he stumbles across some video diaries. These videos depict himself in various versions as he sends home transmissions to his wife and daughter that could or could not really be his. It's heartbreaking to see him come to this realization and it's saddening to know that all the people that he cares about might not even know that he exists, at least in this current form out in space. These feelings of isolation work well with the location of Sam stranded on a space station on the distant expanses of the moon, so far out of reach from civilization in the maddening abyss of space.

Sam starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

To me this film isn't about the overall conclusion that the characters reach, but it's the journey of them finding out their true identities that really captivates me. This impressive concept turns this film into something amazing and it's a joy to see unfold. The idea of coming to terms with something that has been kept from you, something that can shatter your very existence and all that you know, is a very intriguing concept to me and one that is driven home by the director with great skill and utmost confidence. It really is a special film filled with heart and soul, making me anticipate the next film from Duncan Jones that much more. What he was able to create in his first debut is a testament to what he should be able to achieve in the future. What a great way to kick off what looks to be an amazing career.

A lonely shot of a distant Earth.

Moon is a modern marvel of 70's science fiction origins that has the heart and emotional toll to back it up. The performances by Sam Rockwell are exquisite in both their simplicity and their dire complexity and to be able to balance both roles is something short of a cinematic miracle. Duncan Jones has brought enough to this fantastic debut that it bodes well for his career in the movie business and is hopefully a dawning of a new day for one of films great future directors. I highly recommend this film for anyone that loves 70's science fiction and for those of you who appreciate simple stories with complex emotional overtones. This is a must see!

4 out of 5      A Future Classic Science Fiction Film With A Soul.

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