- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by David Medsker
oon” is a sight for sore eyes on a couple of levels. It draws its inspiration from the thinking man’s branch of science fiction, a genre that is, sadly, dying at the hands of shape-shifting robots and little green men. It’s also a pleasant surprise because, well, this has been a lousy year for movies, and I love seeing a small, unassuming film like “Moon” show up its more expensive, major studio cousins.
Set in the not-so-distant future, astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the sole tenant on Sarang, a Moon-based space station owned by Lunar Industries, where he monitors the mining of Helium-3 for use as a green energy source on Earth. Sam has two weeks left on his three-year contract, and cannot wait to get home to his wife Tess (Dominique McElligot) and daughter Eve, who was born after he left, but the time alone is starting to get to him; his only company is the HAL-like computer Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey), and the occasional video message from Tess. Sam starts having hallucinations, and his health suddenly begins to deteriorate. One day, while checking on one of the harvesters, he has a near-fatal accident in a lunar rover, and when he comes to, he’s back in the Sarang infirmary unit, and staring back at him is another, meaner version of himself. Sam suddenly questions everything he thinks he knows. Is this other Sam real, or is he losing his mind? If both Sams are real, then which one is the real Sam?
“Moon” will doubtlessly be compared to “2001,” but the movies have very little in common outside of the man and the computer that is there to assist him. The story could actually take place anywhere, but wisely uses the isolation of the moon as a device to spin a poignant morality tale. Duncan Jones (yep, he’s David Bowie’s son), making his feature film debut, keeps things simple and low-tech, though the movie looks quite good for something that was surely made on a shoestring budget.
Rockwell has quietly turned in some very memorable performances in the last couple years, and his work here is no exception. Playing opposite oneself, and slightly different versions of oneself at that, requires strict attention to detail, and Rockwell delivers two very convincing performances as tough Sam and vulnerable Sam. Spacey was an inspired choice for Gerty, as his deadpan voice is both bored and slightly menacing at the same time. What might surprise people is the straightforward nature of the story; indeed, one might argue that it’s too simple, but the simple approach to a complicated topic serves the movie well. There is one major question involving the actions of Gerty, but to say more would spoil it.
It’s nice to see small movies think big, and few movies this year have done it better than “Moon.” Of course, what would be really nice is to see Sam Rockwell get some long-overdue credit for his work, but I’m not in a position to be greedy at this point. I’m just happy to see a decent movie for a change.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
For an indie movie, "Moon" has a surprising number of bonus features. There are two audio commentaries by director Duncan Jones and various members of his production, editing and effects crew, and there is an entertaining featurette on the making of the movie, where they break down how Sam Rockwell acted opposite himself. Another featurette is dedicated to the special effects, and there are two Q&A sessions from the Sundance Film Festival and the Science Center in Houston. What will entertain fans of the film most of all is the inclusion of "Whistle," a short film about an extremely long distance assassin that Jones made prior to "Moon." You're getting well more than your money's worth here.