Earth has found a new way to solve the energy crisis; funny thing is that it was above us all along. Helium-3 is the new source of energy and it is found inside of rocks on the far side of the moon. Lunar Industries is leading the way bringing this clean energy to the planet and every three years a new worker is sent to the space station to supervise and make sure that everything goes to plan. Sam Bell is the inhabitant during this go around and in two weeks his term is up, or is it?
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott
“We aren’t programmed we are human you understand?”
It has been a long time since I have seen an authentic science fiction film. Duncan Jones’s 2009 film is just that, a real science fiction film. You won’t find aliens trying to take over the world in this one, instead you get to watch the emotional roller coaster that loneliness can do to a person set against vast and black space.
Moon begins by showing a commercial ran by Lunar Industries that sets up the film. The commercial explains that now the world has a new clean energy source that is easily harvested from the far side of the moon and sent back to earth. The only problem I really had with this concept was, wouldn’t tearing up the moon in a way affect the Earth in negative ways? I thought about that for a few minutes, during the opening credits and then stopped myself realizing that I am watching a movie and not to overanalyze the background story.
During Moon’s opening credits we are introduced to Sam Bell. Sam is the only living human on board of the space station. He works out on a treadmill and does his job like normal. At the end of the credits we see him watching a video message from his wife Tess. I will say that the scene is very moving in that the viewer can tell that Sam really does miss his wife and even though the viewer has no idea just how long Sam has been on the station, it already feels like too long. Tess also brings their daughter Eve onto the screen so she can wave at her daddy, as Sam waves back the viewer cant help but to feel a bit sad, she was obviously born while Sam was on the base.
Sam isn’t alone on the base; his companion is a robot by the name of GERTY. GERTY communicates in a very monotone voice, very similar to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. GERTY also has a small yellow smiley face that shows the mood that the computer is in. Once again I started questioning things about machines being able to actually know emotion and had to stop myself. This is why I normally don’t watch science fiction, I often find myself too busy trying to overanalyze everything.
Sam goes about his business in the station, when he isn’t working on harvesting Helium-3 he works on a model of a small town or watches transmitted reruns. There is a problem with the station; it seems it is not capable of sending or receiving live feeds so everything is sent. During one of Sam’s broadcasts home he thanks the workers back home for sending him a feed of a football game, it almost felt live to him.
Harvesting Helium-3 seems to be a dangerous job. The station lets Sam know when one of the harvesters has a full canister and Sam then gets in a lunar rover and docks the harvester to retrieve the canister to send back to Earth. This doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that the harvesters are huge machines that shoot chunks of rock out of the back of them. Imagine the worst snow storm you can to drive through, now imagine that with no real light around you. Now that you have that image in your head go ahead and try to imagine how hard it would be to dock inside of one of these harvesters that are shooting out their debris. The viewer witnesses Sam do this once with no problem and then go along with the rest of his day. It’s during a second trip out to a harvester that things really start to become interesting. Sam is steering his rover towards the harvester and gets lost in the debris and suddenly crashes his rover into the rear of the giant machine.
Sam finally comes to and hears the friendly but monotone voice of GERTY. GERTY informs Sam that he has had a crash, and Sam should seriously rest before he can perform any of his duties. During this rest time Sam witnesses GERTY seeming to have a live conversation with folks back on Earth, something Sam hasn’t been able to do for a long time due to the limitations in the signal feeds. Sam also begins to get a little restless. Sam’s restlessness is easily understandable, the space station is solid white and vacant it just screams quiet and loneliness.
After a few days of this Sam decides that he has had enough and he has to get outside. After purposely cutting into one of the pipes, which causes a rather large gas leak, he talks GERTY into letting him go outside so that he can check the outside of the station. At first GERTY refuses to let him do this but after a few minutes the computer agrees to let him out.
While Sam is out on the surface of the moon he finds his crashed rover, only Sam doesn’t seem to remember crashing it. Sam goes over to examine the rover and is suddenly shocked when he finds another body inside of it. Quickly Sam picks up the other astronaut and heads back to the station. Sam gets into the station with the man’s body and yells for GERTY. This is when the film starts to get a little strange, you see when the comatose man does wake up he looks a lot like Sam Bell. The two of them even have the same memories of Tess and Eve.
Moon quickly goes from being a film that touches on loneliness and the dementia that it can cause to a film that makes you wonder just who exactly are you? The two Sam’s start trying to figure out what exactly is going on and there are small dashes of humor hidden in these scenes.
When one of the Sam’s begins to tear up the station trying to find what he is searching for (I’m not going to tell you as it might ruin the film) the other Sam binds him up in a large yellow coat. While yellow Sam is trying to talk the other Sam informs him that he looks like a radioactive tampon. During another scene one of the Sam’s keeps pressing play on a music player that plays Walkin’ on the Sunshine, while the other Sam continually tries to stop the player and talk to him.
Moon is a movie that has a lot of feelings that get covered in such a short time, the running time is 97 minutes. Among the emotions covered are the above mentioned loneliness as well as helplessness, joy, friendship, excitement, anger and love. Sam Rockwell does such an excellent job with the role of Sam Bell that none of these emotions come across fake; you actually do start to feel the way he feels.
Moon is also a very beautiful film. The scenes that take places on the lunar surface look authentic and not shopped at all. The machines used in the film also seem to carry a sense of authenticity with them; this makes the scenes where Sam is harvesting the Helium-3 look very dangerous. The space station also looks very good, although a bit lonely and quiet with its plain white walls that Sam has decorated with pictures of his family. Even GERTY looks good with it’s robotic arm that not only offers a “knowing” shoulder rub it also cuts and grooms hair and sneaks over Sam’s shoulder to type in a much needed password on a computer.
Moon is definitely different than a lot of the films that I review for this site, and honestly I rarely watch science fiction films. Moon however is more than a science fiction film; it’s a very emotional piece that I honestly think everyone should witness. If this is science fiction, where have you been?