Is Moon an example of art house science fiction, or a throwback to sci-fi of years past? There are several points to both sides, but there is no arguing the quality of this haunting, understated film.

Moon is primarily a character study, that of astronaut and caretaker Sam Bell. Sam is the sole occupant of a mining station on Earth's moon, at which is produced a valuable energy source that has all but eliminated Earth's dependancy of fossil fuels. Sam is the one human required to maintain order and step up to fix any glitches or bugs in the mostly automated mining process. Sam's sole companion is GERTY, a computer artificial intelligence that runs the station as well as providing for Sam's basic needs. Due to continuing complications with the com system, Sam's communication with Earth has been primarily through recorded messages, and Gerty has been Sam's only "live" contact for some time.

As one might expect, there is a heightened sense of isolationism and early hints at Sam succumbing to some form of "space madness," his interactions with Gerty only fueling the mystery. But the mystery itself is exposed in short order, being merely the opening to a much deeper, unexpected conflict who's resolution develops into something staggeringly complex. This is where heart of the film takes hold as Sam struggles with his situation, as does Gerty. There are many elements evocative to sci-fi contemporaries 2001 and Solaris (the former being a rightfully lauded classic, the later (Soderbergh remake) highly under-appreciated).

It is hard to imagine the pressure placed on an actor to carry an entire film, yet the portrayal of Sam Bell by Sam Rockwell appears effortless. This could be due in part to sheer talent or an uncanny level of comfort with being in front of a camera, and is probably a bit of both. There are several Rockwell-isms that fans of his work will enjoy, altho the traversal of character that is employed over the duration of the film is pretty damn impressive. Kevin Spacey provides the cool, calm voice of Gerty with an unashamed channeling of Douglas Rain's HAL 9000. This in and of itself in execution is more like the comfort of a favored t-shirt rather than the clichéd gimmick it could have been, so Spacey does get some points for that.

Sam's moon base isolation is set in a non-defined future that helps the film gloss over some of the finer details, but sharp-eyed and attentive viewers are given enough snippets to do the math for an accurate date. The nebulous timeline was likely by design as to not lock in any specific technology that would distract us from the core story or inherently date the film. In fact true sci-fi aficionados would do best to leave their tech checks at the door, as Moon betrays most of what we know about existing communication, robotics, and artificial intelligence early on. Yet what is relayed in terms of futurism is done so as clean and minimalist. While this may seem like a potential bone of contention by the hardcore, how it is presented in the film succeeds in conveying Moon's surprisingly timeless charm. It's what gives Moon a fascinating feeling of a film out of time, by as much as twenty or thirty years. A long lost or forgotten sci-fi classic, if you will. Should this (hopefully) have been director Duncan Jones' intention, congratulations are in order.

Entertaining and thought-provoking, Moon is a rare offering amidst this summer's mindless blockbusters. Among those that are masquerading as science fiction, Moon shows how it's done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really envy the fact that you got to see this film. I have a feeling it will take quite a while, if ever, for the film to make it out to my neck of the world. Thanks for the spoiler-free review!

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