Reviews

Moon

5

Bowie Jr makes a freaky moon-age daydream…

In a summer of super-sized sci-fi, Duncan “Son of David Bowie” Jones’ feature debut makes a potent case for non-proligacy.

More tender and transcendent than Terminator Salvation, more scruffy than Star Trek, Moon is a near-one-hander, shot in 33 days and stressing conceptual sci-fi preferences over conspicuous cash-flinging.

With Silent Running’s sadness and Alien’s craggy conviction as precedents, its scale is small but its ideas – about being human, essentially – are big.

The slippery focus is Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a near-future astronaut reaching the end of a three-year contract to facilitate mining energy sources on the glum side of the moon.

Sam is eager to go home to his family; who wouldn’t be if they only had Kevin Spacey’s insinuating voice for company in the shape of a proto-HAL robo-pal called GERTY? No wonder Sam’s psyche starts splintering.

Headaches and hallucinations cause him to crash his space rover during a lunar jaunt. In sick bay, his visions intensify…

What follows doesn’t just probe what’s up with Sam. It asks who he is, why he’s here, anatomising identity on existential lines. This gives Rockwell much to rise to, and he does so with grace, depth and range enough to draw empathy and suggest a troubled past simultaneously.

Old-school model-work effects and limited-scale set designs are deployed to similar ends: rugged-metal reality is matched to a more abstract, claustrophobic kind of head-space, fusing allegory with interior psychodrama.

Subterranean thrills and chills are provided in a “something in the cellar” fashion, but the nature of what’s down there is properly complex. Moon is tense but it also expertly wrong-foots us, dodging potential clichés in favour of emotive, intelligent revelations.

It’d be wrong to say “twists”, because Nathan Parker’s script drip-feeds Hitchcockian suspense instead of delivering fastforgotten shocks. The reveals do satisfy, though, so dodge those spoilers.

We’ll see and enjoy bigger films this summer, but Jones’ psychological space odyssey hardly puts a moon boot wrong.

Verdict:

Fans of speculative and conceptual sci-fi and classic storytelling should take this trip to identity’s dark side. The direction is elegant, the acting impeccable. Take the trip.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • punchdrunklove

      Jul 20th 2009, 17:34

      5

      wow

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    • whites0cks

      Jul 23rd 2009, 20:23

      Having recently rented the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien, I was listening to the audio commentary track, in which director Ridley Scott and lead actress Sigourney Weaver recall meeting at a restaurant with writer Dan O'Bannon and producer Walter Hill prior to shooting. The gist of the conversation was spearheaded by O'Bannon, who emphasized to the party that the key to Alien was everything that happens in the movie, from the discovery of the derelict spacecraft, to the chest-busting dinner scene unleashing the alien, leading to the untimely death of the entire crew, resulted from the fact that a heartless and evil corporation was behind it all. Son of a b***h. Alien is now thirty years old, and having grown up viewing countless imitations of it, watching it again made me realize just how important nefarious corporations are to science fiction. They're as important to this particular genre as female nudity is to the horror genre, as fatal disease is to the tear-jerker. Moon, a new sci-fi film, has among other things, a keen understanding of that aforementioned concept, and I'll leave it at that for the sake of writing a spoiler-free review. It also has a haunting score, a stunningly realistic portrayal of the lunar surface, and a great lead performance from Sam Rockwell that gets better and better in my mind the more I think about it. I'd like to say it's two lead performances, but that is not quite accurate. Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut stationed on the Moon for a three year contract to harvest Helium3, an energy-efficient element that is extracted out of sun baked moon rocks. This element is then shipped to Earth, where it provides seventy percent of the power generated on the planet, as we are informed in a advertisement opening the film that looks a lot like the expensive corporate entity ads I see run on commercial breaks during Meet the Press. Bell is entirely alone on the Moon, save a congenial service robot named GERTY that runs the mechanics of the ship, assisting Sam in any way it can. GERTY has no face, but a monitor that expresses through emoticons, and also the creepily soothing vocal stylings of Kevin Spacey. Sam is at the end of his contract. It shows. His personal hygiene is reluctantly maintained, and you can see three years of solitude in his eyes, but also in his lunar habitat that the set designer gives a convincing “lived in” feel. Every recreational and vocational doohickey in the station looks used to its max-out point, or has had something attached or been written on by Sam for his own personal reference. Though he does what he can to stay on his feet, Sam is fraying at the seams. He communicates through heavily delayed video correspondence with his loved ones, but it only fuels his loneliness and insecurity, his desire to be among humanity. He has frequent headaches, and even begins to hallucinate, seeing a young girl appear and vanish in the station. He's wigging and he knows it, the matter being made all the worse by the increasing sensation that the GERTY robot is hiding something; its concern for his well being makes him uneasy in a way that he can't put a finger on. Two weeks can't pass quickly enough. Then Sam wakes up in the infirmary and GERTY informs him that he was in an accident. He has no recollection of the event, but is bothered by the fact that one of the lunar rovers is not at bay. Upon investigating in the other rover, Sam finds a battered guy in a spacesuit that looks like a dead ringer for himself, brings him back to base, and is perplexed beyond comprehension that GERTY does not differentiate between them, referring to both of them as Sam. This is where Rockwell's performance becomes an amazing technical feat as well as a subtle piece of acting. Though they are identical, often occupying the screen at the same time, there is never a point where we as an audience are confused as to which Sam is which. Both men claim to be Sam Bell, with the same memories, the same mission statement, but there are some differences between them that start off subtle and become increasingly clear. One Sam is more alert, physically fit, but also has a bit of an edge on him and is quick to squabble. The other occupies that “lived in” feel described earlier with the set design. This is the Sam we were watching at the opening of the movie. At one point the two have a ping-pong match, (a special effect I really hope they illustrate on the DVD) and it is clear that one Sam has put in more hours at the table than the other, but only one of the two men is curious as to how or why this is so. I always try to write a film review from the perspective that I'd rather be discussing it with you after you've seen it, but Moon presents a challenge to me in that I can't reveal any more about the nature of this predicament without diminishing your curiosity, except to say that it is revealed and leaves a lot of interesting questions. First time director Duncan Jones has made one of the better hard sci-fi movies I've seen in years. It has all the right ingredients; the ambiance, the tone, and the mystery that compel me to shell out nine bucks and leave the theater feeling satisfied. As for Sam Rockwell in the dual role, I'll say this: When I go back and think of other effective dual roles, only two exceptional examples come to mind. The first is Nicholas Cage in Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002), and the second (and probably most infamous) is, of course, Jeremy Irons playing psychotic, drug-addled, twin gynecologists in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988). Both of these actors were excellent in their ability to not confuse the audience as to who is who, but also in that they developed each role in to fully formed individuals. For reasons I can't go in to, believe me when I say that the task set before Rockwell is immensely more tricky, and that an evil corporation has undoubtedly had something to do with it. – Tim Severovich

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    • johnr93

      Aug 1st 2009, 7:12

      Rating??? Review??? There are no cinemas showing this film within 40 miles of where I live! (Blackburn Lancs.) Guess I'll have to wait for the DVD...

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    • captainchod

      Aug 5th 2009, 11:49

      5

      Breathtaking performance from Sam Rockwell and my favourite film of the year so far. Easy 5 stars.

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    • McGuffin

      Aug 5th 2009, 22:59

      5

      Easily a 5 star film. Superbly written and directed with an outstanding performance by Sam Rockwell, this is probably the best film i have seen this year. Interesting and intriguing throughout, i found myself immersed in the film untill the very end; and could have easily sat through another 30 minutes. It was refreshing to go to the cinema and watch a film that focused on character and storytelling and not just rely on big, elaborate set-pieces. Highly recommended.

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    • McGuffin

      Aug 5th 2009, 22:59

      Easily a 5 star film. Superbly written and directed with an outstanding performance by Sam Rockwell, this is probably the best film i have seen this year. Interesting and intriguing throughout, i found myself immersed in the film untill the very end; and could have easily sat through another 30 minutes. It was refreshing to go to the cinema and watch a film that focused on character and storytelling and not just rely on big, elaborate set-pieces. Highly recommended.

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    • McGuffin

      Aug 5th 2009, 23:00

      5

      Easily a 5 star film. Superbly written and directed with an outstanding performance by Sam Rockwell, this is probably the best film i have seen this year. Interesting and intriguing throughout, i found myself immersed in the film untill the very end; and could have easily sat through another 30 minutes. It was refreshing to go to the cinema and watch a film that focused on character and storytelling and not just rely on big, elaborate set-pieces. Highly recommended.

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    • McGuffin

      Aug 5th 2009, 23:01

      5

      Easily a 5 star film. Superbly written and directed with an outstanding performance by Sam Rockwell, this is probably the best film i have seen this year. Interesting and intriguing throughout, i found myself immersed in the film untill the very end; and could have easily sat through another 30 minutes. It was refreshing to go to the cinema and watch a film that focused on character and storytelling and not just rely on big, elaborate set-pieces. Highly recommended.

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    • Nealsreviews1

      Aug 9th 2009, 0:06

      4

      Marooned on the dark side of the moon, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) starts seeing things - himself. When he crashes his lunar rover on a mission, he awakens to find his sealed outpost repopulated with another version of himself. Director Duncan Jones was obviously highly influenced by the classic 2001. Sam Rockwell doesn't fail to amuse in this quirky tale, the whole movie is centered on him I think he's a very underated actor who shines quite brightly in this dark film. The movie taps on issues dealing with the nature of human experience, isolation & coping with technology in the near future. An interesting story worth viewing for an hour & a half. Neal Damiano Film Critic

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    • luzanos

      Sep 5th 2009, 16:50

      5

      Fantastic movie, such a pity it didn't get a wide release.

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    • MichaelJBoomBox

      Sep 30th 2009, 23:20

      5

      I agree with McGuffin, and im not a film reviewer. That film was good!

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    • jacoblost48

      Nov 28th 2009, 18:37

      4

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    • beck79

      Dec 4th 2009, 12:47

      5

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    • Vespertine

      Jan 21st 2010, 15:37

      Hey McGuffin, hold off on your reviews. Five Star for McGuffin

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    • district9

      Aug 24th 2010, 14:52

      5

      An amazing sci-fi. Brilliantly acted and superbly written, it's defiantly one of the best films of the year

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    • ellyka19

      Oct 25th 2010, 9:44

      5

      I like your blog, currently we are looking for a part time article writer would you be interested? devis assurance voiture sans permis

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    • joshliamdunne

      Oct 28th 2010, 22:39

      5

      I totally agree with you here total film! The finest most original piece of work I have seen in a long time. Sam Rockwell is fantastic in the role of Sam Bell and the production values are surprisingly high. Recently got it on blu ray and it looks fantastic- some info for you high def enthusiasts! One not to miss!

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    • JohnsonSmith

      Mar 3rd 2011, 13:47

      I am very much fascinated from your film! Sam Rockwell is incredible in the role of Sam Bell and the making values are too high. Payday loan | Cashadvance | Cash payday loans

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