Short Reviews: Moon (2009)


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This film is best seen without an inkling of what’s going on. I’ll keep the review as spoiler free as possible but see it cold if you can.

‘Tis the future, and the world is saved by the mining of Helium-3 from the moon as an energy source. Harvested by autonomous machines, the operation is overseen by a solo astronaut on a 3-year mission. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of his 3-year mission with only an intelligent computer system named GERTY (voice of Kevin Spacey) for company. Perhaps it’s the solitude and isolation, or space itself, but Sam starts seeing some strange things that throw up some pretty startling questions, and therein sits a magnificent plot that I don’t want to give away.

Moon is a spectacular debut from writer/director Duncan Jones. With its feet firmly in the hard sci-fi camp, it’s a film that manages the best of sci-fi in crafting a story to ask us questions about the world we live in now. It’s a low-key but supremely confident piece of filmmaking, anchored not only by its craftsmanship but its spectacular performance from Sam Rockwell, who carries almost the entire movie on his own shoulders.

Rockwell’s tasked with a fair bit as Sam Bell, yet pulls it off spectacularly, completely owning a performance that requires consistency, nuance and subtlety all at once and anchors a potentially outlandish scenario in complete reality; cold, hard, heartbreaking reality. There is one moment in this film that always brings tears to the eyes and it’s owed entirely to the mastery of his performance.

The film’s other major character, GERTY, is a great example of how utilising common tropes (and perhaps subverting them too) with enough thought behind how its done can improve a film rather than detract from it. GERTY communicates through his gently robotic voice and a display window that shows simple emoticons – yet what the film does with GERTY is unexpected and completely welcome. He’s not just another HAL 900 clone in the repertoire of cinema, though the film possibly expects you to expect that.

Moon is a film that sits right at home along classics like 2001 and Solaris in its desire to engage the mind rather than a special effects extravaganza. But that’s not to belittle the effects – the moon we see in this film feels as cold and barren as the actual rock itself, captured through the use of miniature sets and a great ascetic design for the moon base itself.

Throw in a sublime minimalist score from Clint Mansell that manages to capture the emotional and isolated sensations of the film, and it’s one expertly put-together film. And it’s one of those movies that I’m again resigned to saying is better than anything I can describe.

Even if sci-fi is not your normal thing, or the concept of a film about isolation on the moon seems a bit naff, Moon is definitely worth seeing.

Trailer below, but even that might be showing too much:

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