Moon, Dir. Duncan Jones

Posted: August 3, 2009 by Adam in Film Reviews
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MoonSpace is pretty bloody scary…and it’s clear from films that we humans are terrified of it. The number of nice cuddly alien sci-fi movies versus ones where we are all wiped out is definitely in favour of the latter. This especially hits home to me as a Brit, because we have a shite record in space. Everyone remembers Kane’s (John Hurt) death in Alien, how about Bud (Terrance Stamp) in Red Planet, and recently Engineer Olsen (Greg Ellis) in the latest Star Trek film. What do they have in common? That’s right they are all from the UK and what else do they have in common? They’re all dead. So as awesome as space sounds, when the call comes in for me to go on that remote mining trip to outer space I think I will be in calling sick.

Enough paranoia for now.

Moon is the debut feature film by Duncan Jones (he’s David Bowie’s son you know) and stars Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind & The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) as its central character Sam Bell. I caught this film during a press screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival where it deservedly won the Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature Film

Moon centres around Sam Bell, an employee of Lunar Industries, who has been living alone in a space station on the moon mining helium- 3, which we are told is the Earth’s main source of power now. Sam has been living alone on the station for the last 3 years. His only source of companionship is the eerie on board computer GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), and the occasional recorded messages from his wife and young daughter back on Earth. As Sam prepares to head home after the completion of his three year assignment his health rapidly starts to deteriorate, culminating in an accident while checking one of the mining vehicles. He eventually wakes up back in the station and in excellent health, but then GERTY starts acting kind of weird….

So I won’t go much further so as not to spoil the film, it is a really good story. Sadly it did remind me a bit of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, The 6th Day, which is a pity….because I really hated that film.

HOWEVER apart from that it is great to have another sci-fi film in the same ilk as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running and dare I say it…WALL-E? I’ll make that reference clear later. Duncan Jones has clearly been doing his research; there are obvious references and similarities to 2001 (lone man in space CHECK, creepy computer CHECK) and Silent Running (Earth left barren by our love of oil and Top Gear CHECK, man losing mind in space CHECK). The great bit is that this flagrant copying doesn’t matter! It’s what makes a really good sci-fi film. Namely a film about loneliness, human despair, life’s origins and the twisting of our perception of reality. This is not a film about little green men or spaghetti eating aliens popping out of your chest at any moments notice.

Sam Rockwell’s performance is excellent, few can really do the ‘man at his wits end’ performance well and Rockwell has truly made it his own. In Confessions of a Dangerous Mind he played Chuck Barris a game show host forced to kill for his country while presenting The Gong Show. In this sad, true story paranoia eventually consumes his life driving him to…wait for it…despair! In Moon the Rockwell despair performance is wheeled out again and to great effect, he just makes you want him to succeed and live forever.

A creepy, poignant space film would be nothing without a disconcerting computer like Hal and in Moon we are given GERTY. While the character in itself is nothing special, GERTY is not too different from other on board computers; it is the voice of Kevin Spacey that makes him so incredibly creepy. Only Spacey can make the statement ‘would you like a relaxing bath sir?’ sound like he was going to sneak up on you and push your head under the water.

It is really hard to criticise this film, yes it’s a bit slow and probably it would have been better to see more of Sam Rockwell going about his daily routine like in Silent Running or WALL-E. However that’s really it, the soundtrack and special effects are really well done, the acting is great and the plot is solid. Will it become a cult hit? Sadly I don’t think so; it just lacks a really epic quality, you feel that Duncan Jones was simply dipping his toes in the water to see what the temperature was rather than just manning up and diving straight in. Next time…just dive in.



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