Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review: Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)

Duncan Jones' debut film has been lauded by critics after premiering at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, eventually winning Best Independent British Film at the British Independent Film Awards. Sam Rockwell also received a nomination for his terrific solo performance. Moon develops some very interesting ideas about the utilisation of the human race to maintain the health of the Earth and is a thrilling and thought-provoking science fiction adventure.

Nearing the conclusion of a three year contract upon the Moon, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works as an employee of Lunar Industries extracting Helium-3 from the soil on the Moon's surface to supply clean energy for the Earth, diminishing the potentially disastrous energy issues. Cooped up and relying on routine, Sam's lone companion is an intelligent computer system named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) designed to assist him with his role.

Only weeks from returning to his wife and daughter back on Earth, Sam begins to get ill, suffer from hallucinations and have strange dreams, beginning to
quickly lose control and ultimately places his mission in jeopardy. The facility itself becomes another character, as Sam patrols the labyrinth of tunnels alone. While the rooms are very well lit and quite spacious, they always give the illusion that something is hidden, and Jones creates a creepy atmosphere within the base.

During a routine check on the harvester to extract collected deposits of Helium-3, Sam is distracted when he believes he sees a figure standing on the surface of the Moon and crashes the vehicle, losing consciousness and turning to a life-support system. These sequences where Sam ventures out onto the surface of the Moon are visually stunning - almost dream-like.

The visual effects in this film are used cleverly and are never over-the-top, as the harvester cultivates the soil and sends it flying out into space, and we see the huge mechanisms at work. Jones has transformed the Moon into a spectacle of incredible beauty. Following this crash, which we believe will surely result in Sam's death, the film becomes very interesting indeed. Revealing too much more will surely ruin the experience.

One of the great features of Moon is the claustrophobic, contained nature of its setting. There are no aliens or guns, just a man facing the reality of his existence, violently struggling both physically with his injuries and with his declining sanity. It lacks the massive scope of the big action blockbusters that offer brain numbing special effects and few characters to care for. Drawing influence from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Solaris (1972), Moon is a character-driven drama that deals with some pretty interesting scientific possibilities.

Sam Rockwell's performance is fantastic as he undergoes a series of physical transformations and must play dual roles, each with very different personalities. I was really moved by this film, and for once was actually impressed that a science fiction film could make me think. Moon is the best film about space exploration since Danny Boyle's Sunshine was released back in 2007, and was one of 2009's finest indie releases.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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