I awaited this film with great anticipation after seeing many good write-ups and almost universal critical acclaim, but at the same time being very aware of recent films, that have characterised the summer season so far, which promised so much but gave so little (Exhibit A. Public Enemies). Moon appeared at first glance to be this summer’s salvation for moviegoers; ultimately I think that it has lived up to this expectation. Moon’s story is intriguing, deep and has some intellectual bite which definitely offers a refreshing change to a series of ho-hum and at times mindless films that have been dropped off the ever dusty Hollywood conveyer belt. Moon does not set out to do anything new or original and this type of SF psychological drama has been recycled many times over but still has enough in it to keep you gripped to the end credits. It is by no means the film of the year but is easily the best film out at the moment.
The film follows Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), an astronaut who works for a future company that develops alternative, renewable energies that have saved the world from the global warming crisis. He mans one of their outposts on the moon single-handed and in isolation for three straight years; his only company comes in the form of a smiley-faced robot called GERTY (Kevin Spacey) who attends to Sam’s every need. It is two weeks until the end of Sam’s three year contract and the years of isolation have taken its toll on his mental state. He begins to hallucinate and becomes increasingly paranoid as the cabin fever reaches breaking point and the deadline nears ever closer. As a result of his hallucinations he crashes his moon buggy while repairing broken machinery outside the base. He awakes in the base infirmary but does not recollect the event and GERTY will not explain what happened. When fully recovered Sam’s curiosity takes him out to the crash site and he makes a shocking discovery; an identical body is still trapped in the wreckage. Sam’s troubles are only just beginning as he starts to investigate this bizarre situation.
Moon does extremely well to keep the audience interested and gripped at every turn despite the fact that most of the scenes are essentially Sam Bell talking to himself. I think this is helped immeasurably by the pace of the film. At first I thought it was rather too quick in some stages and didn’t give the more important scenes of the film enough emphasis. Ultimitely though it was a decent tool as it kept the action flowing and not leave the viewer dangling. Debut director Duncan Jones balances the pace and the action well and allows Moon’s story to flow very well. The story itself is quite predictable as it is playing with themes that have all been done before so there is little mystery about the plot. The way it is executed however is done very well. The real mystery about the story is not why Sam has found himself, quite literally, it is the fact that we cannot gain a true sense reality throughout the film. There is always something that throws the viewer and Sam off the scent of reason. Duncan allows us to be put into Sam’s shoes and get sucked into the mystery, we only know as much as Sam does, and in this respect the film is immaculately well done.
Sam Rockwell also provides a blinding performance; so delicate, intricate and honest is his performance as Sam Bell that I would put him right up there with Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche, New York as a contender for the best performance of the year. Director Duncan Jones brings a lot of life to the film and does a great job in his directorial debut. Plus, he’s David Bowie’s son, which is just awesome! The film has minimal special effects and relies heavily on the actual performance. This is again a nice change from the big budget films like Terminator and Transformers that have literally overdosed on CGI usage. The film still looks beautiful in places and there some very beautifully shot scenes. There were some beautiful touches to the film like Kevin Spacey’s character GERTY and some interesting devices, such as the renewable energies theme and the model village. I will not give too much away but I think Duncan made some wonderfully subtle touches that really made the film for me.
I initially came out of the film feeling very so-so about it but as the film permeated on me for a couple of days it grew on me more and more; and that’s always a good bonus. This is definitely a film to catch while you can; it’s easily the best film out there at the moment and is a very intriguing watch. It’s a very modest and nicely made film which covers all the bases for an entertaining ride.