Isolation. Some of us want that. Everyone needs that at times, especially in a society that prioritizes staying connected at more than any other point in Earth’s history. With the internet and apps like Facebook, MySpace, or the hot Twitter, the ease and emphasis on “communication” with others is at levels we have never before seen (or needed). Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that, like the Southwest Airline commercial says, you might “wanna get away.” What better place to be isolated than on the Moon? Well, I can think of several, but for this film Moon serves as both the movie’s title and the only location we ever witness.
Sam Bell is on a 3-year contract working alone on a facility in a fixed location on the Moon. He has his little conveniences to help him, from prepackaged meals or hot water at the push of a button, a moon rover to get out on the moon’s surface for inspections, a miniature exercise area, and best of all, or perhaps worst, an assistant in the form of Gerty, a computer aimed at helping and taking care of Sam, down to providing a flowbee-style haircuts and keeping him laced in the finest fashions a ship of one has to offer. All the while, Sam plods along, dutifully sending resourceful packages back to Earth which help provide 70% of Earth’s natural power supply.
Sam’s solitude might sometimes feel like jail without the gang-rape (maybe more like solitary confinement). Is he going crazy? His only contact with Earth is done through video messages sent where he gets to hear from his Lunar Industries employers or see his sensuous wife and daughter as they eagerly await his return in two weeks time. Rather than give away too much in terms of detail, I’ll only say that when Sam gets in an accident, a strange occurrence takes place that alters the pace, shape, tone and direction of the film.
Moon is directed by first time helmer Duncan Jones, the son of famed music artist David Bowie. Jones poises himself as one to watch for. While he wrote the story and not the script, his direction is clearly imaginative as he finds ways to capitalize on the limited shooting location, while at the same time allowing the viewer to marvel at the vastness of space and the moon’s surface. He also has enough chutzpah to let his sole actor do his thing, allowing for an at times witty and for the most part captivating performance.
It really is virtually entirely a one-man’s show. Sam Rockwell plays Sam with great verve, hitting all the notes between desperation, difficult acknowledgment, pain, longing, humor and much in between. He is ultimately the perfect choice for this sort of role. It is a highly difficult piece to act in, and one that I think might find him talked about in some fashion comes awards season if the film is fortunate enough to find an audience.
On the other hand, Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey, brings near human emotion at times through none other than emoticons on its display screen. While Gerty speaks in an emotionless, monotonous tone, his LCD display and arm actions lend him to be nearly a full-fledged rounded character. He brings fear and inspires trust in equal parts, in a surprisingly distinguished performance…for a machine.
One of my usual gripes with sci-fi is that there is almost a built in allowance for things to not have to add up; its sci-fi so filmmakers often feel that they can get away with anything. Jones doesn’t take nearly the amount of liberties that I have seen in other films in the genre. While still very sci-fi, its truly rooted in human emotion, anchored by Rockwell’s powerful performance. So much so in fact that this may warrant repeat viewings, and this is coming from someone who is not usually a fan of the genre.
When we think of sci-fi, we often think of movies like Star Trek or The Chronicles of Riddick. However, this is a science-fiction film with a feeling and tone more along the lines of 2002’s underrated Solaris, as Moon deals with the difficulties of human solitude. The film is a slow moving piece, but there was enough surprise and depth to keep me engaged. I recommend it for Rockwell’s screen charm, Jones’ visual eye, and a great piano score that adds to the feelings on screen rather than detracts from them. Still while the Moon might be a fun place to visit, I can’t say that I would ever want to live there.