I’d been hearing buzz for the smart, low-budget, limited release movie Moon by the time I got to see it in theaters last Saturday. My expectations were high, and I wondered if this film would do everything many people had said it would. Did I question my humanity? Did the movie ask what it means to be human?
Not as much as I assumed it would. But it did make me think, and is certainly a cerebral movie.
It’s sometime in the future, and Earth has started using clean energy that comes in the form of Helium-3, an isotope I wasn’t sure existed, but actually researched after the film. Turns out that it does, that it’s valued highly for nuclear fusion research, that it’s incredibly rare on earth, but that many people think it is on the Moon in abundance. Three points for accuracy. Anyway, an energy company is the sole supplier of Helium-3, and it gets all of it from a mining station on the dark side of the moon. The entire program is managed by one lonely occupant, who is under contract for three years before returning to earth, named Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell. With just two weeks remaining before returning home, Sam is starting to feel the weight of isolation of being away from Mother Earth for three long years. His only human contact is from pre-recorded messages from the company executives, and his wife and daughter. There’s a satellite for live communication, but it’s strangely broken and not set for repair any time soon. The job is taking its toll, Sam starts to have strange hallucinations and is on the cusp of insanity. Soon he finds himself interacting with somebody identical to him in every way, and also happens to go by the name Sam Bell.
He’s (They’re?) assisted at the base by GERTY, a high tech artificial intelligence system that speaks with voice of Kevin Spacey and shows emotion with the use of a select few smiley face emoticons on a small screen. What at first comes off as a creepy, HAL copy cat thankfully proves to be something much different.
I realized in October my freshman year of college, when I was still meeting new people in a place where I had known nobody coming in, that I had gone the longest duration of time without a hug. It was an odd, sad and sobering fact; something that had been daily routine for me, a natural human interaction, had suddenly vanished in my life. This movie takes that to the nth degree, viewing how somebody might act completely devoid of human contact. We then get what can only be described as a a ‘mind-fuck’ as we try to discern the circumstances surrounding this incident. Is he a clone, or has he completely snapped? The movie does a fantastic job of making it ambiguous and forcing you to think to discern what you think is true. In the end, I’m not sure it ever really tells you.
The cinematography on the film is perfect. It has a dated feel to it, where the CGI looks like it could be little models, but if it were little models it looks CGI. It gives it a rugged, realistic feel of what it would probably be like to drive a Humvee across the surface of the moon. Accompanied by a fantastic piano-heavy score by Clint Mansell, known best for his haunting music in Requiem for a Dream.
To say Sam Rockwell did a good job here is like saying Leonardo Da Vinci painted a pretty picture with the Mona Lisa. He has the whole spectrum of emotions to display, from despair to borderline madness, and it’s his performance that gives the film much of its intrigue. Also considering the entire movie consists of him talking to himself, it’s more than impressive to see what he’s done.
If Moon is playing near you, go see it. It’s the smart sci-fi film of the summer to balance out the bombastic fun that was Star Trek. My brain certainly churned more in this movie than in any other movie this summer, and it’s certainly one of the best releases so far. The rare gem of a film that comes out during the season of popcorn fanfare.