Moon (2009) Dir. Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey
As is so often the case with science fiction, Moon takes us to the future. A future where the world’s energy supply is reaching crisis point, soon there will be no power to run even the world’s most energy efficient light bulb. The solution: harvest valuable mineral resources from the dark side of the moon.
Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the completion of his three-year stint harvesting the precious Helium 3 which is the answer to the world’s energy crisis.
Sam’s only link to the world he left behind comes in the form of satellite messages to and from his wife and daughter, and occasional notes from his employers. The closest thing he has to a friend is Gerty, the base’s ever-attentive computer (Kevin Spacey).
Too much time spent alone in space is starting to have an effect on Sam, and soon his mind is lost to paranoia and a frayed grip on reality.
The plot begins with our introduction to Sam’s life on the moon base, which could have been designed by Steve Jobs; all white plastic and gleaming panels. Think Moon Base Alpha from Space 1999, but with a more taste. After quickly establishing the characters, the tension quickly escalates as his paranoia takes hold. It keeps you engaged without needing to over-emphasise any one plot point, or over complicate things and add too many (I’m looking at you, Pirates of the Caribbean 2).
It does not take long to get drawn into the film, and within a few minutes you are already questioning what you may or may not have just seen, leaving you with a sense of confusion and doubt in your own judgement. This involvement continues throughout the film, and remains engaging to the credits.
Gerty’s lack of features means that you are drawn to his screen, which more often than not portrays a round, yellow, smiley face, similar to that made famous by Alan Moore’s Watchmen and the acid house scene in the 90’s. There is something quite unsettling about it, because, even though it may be smiling at you, there is no emotion behind those soulless eyes. Various animated faces add a comical element to the film, but also add an extra level of loneliness when you look at him and expect some sort of empathy, and are greeted only by a blank cartoon smile.
Kevin Spacey’s performance as the computer (reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL) is very well cast, as his emotionless voice gives the nearest thing you can get to depth to a lifeless character. The only way you could get a less emotive voice would be to go down the WALL-E route and have it voiced by an actual computer, or Keanu Reeves.
Sam Rockwell’s Sam Bell is a more sympathetic character than his robotic counterpart, and despite his loneliness and stir-craziness, you find yourself feeling for him. As the only ‘real’ character in the film, you’d hope to have some sort of relationship with him, and the one you are given takes you through a host of experiences. There are moments of the film where I felt almost as if I was stranded alone with Sam, and you find yourself experiencing things in almost the same way he does, being pulled along with him as the film goes on. Slowly being driven towards insanity can cause somewhat of a rift in the relationship between yourself and what could make a sympathetic character (see Jack Torrance in The Shining), however Sam’s mental turmoil becomes more of a hook to draw you in, rather than putting a barrier between you and him.
With an undeniably excellent, and indeed Award Nominated performance from Sam Rockwell as our protagonist, and using Kevin Spacey’s eerily emotionless voice to it’s full potential, the casting coupled with a well written script soon has you fully immersed in the story within moments, and carries right through to the end.
I did have some initial doubts when I first heard tales of the highly acclaimed independent film. I am often wary of anything dubbed an ‘indie film’, given that the term indie rarely now means ‘independent’, and has instead become synonymous with ‘Shit’. I nice to see a true independent film that actually is independent, and that doesn’t have an illustrated title, a ‘kooky’ protagonist and a ukulele-heavy soundtrack.
All in all, an enthralling story, well directed and supported by excellent acting from the cast, which delivers suspense and intrigue from start to finish.