Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Runtime: 1 hr 37 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Matt Berry, Robin Chalk, Sam Rockwell, Malcom Stewart, Benedict Wong, Kevin Spacey
One of the year’s most enjoyable genre offerings.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
Moon has become a minor media sensation because it was directed by Duncan Jones, aka David Bowie’s son. That’s all good and fine, but the film deserves to stand on its own as a thought-provoking low-budget science-fiction feature – an unfortunately strange brew these days. Made with an admirable mix of economy and wit, the film strikes a nice balance between the blissful sensory overload of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and the bare-bones stylizations of Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris. This is one of the year’s most enjoyable genre offerings.
Sam Rockwell (Choke, The Green Mile) stars as Sam Bell, an astronaut nearing the end of a three-year assignment on a lunar space station. Sam is there to extract an energy source named helium-3. His only companion is GERTY, the supercomputer that runs the station. GERTY is one of the film’s wittiest creations. He’s like HAL-9000 (from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) only in terms of the roles they play on the ship/station. Whereas HAL was cold and clinical, Gerty is a warm, friendly entity who wears his emotions on his sleeve. His mood is visualized through a series of little yellow faces like the ones used in text messages: a smiley face, a frowny face, etc. My favorite is the face GERTY makes when he’s listening or pretending to be confused about something. Priceless. But what really seals the deal is Kevin Spacey’s voice work. The veteran actor turns GERTY into a kind of motherly figure, especially in the scene where he’s cutting Sam’s hair. This is one of my favorite science-fiction characters in a long time.
To reveal much more about the movie – and what makes it so unexpectedly moving – would be to reveal too many secrets. So I just want to talk a little bit about how well the movie has been made (and on a $5 million budget at that). Sam isn’t emotionally detached like Dave Bowman in 2001 or Chris Kelvin in Solaris; he’s more in the tradition of the flesh-and-blood human beings that populated the early science-fiction films of James Cameron (Aliens, The Abyss). The station has a grimy, haphazard look – visual clues that a) Sam has been alone for a long time, and b) he’s working for a corporation that’s doing things on the cheap. Director of photography Gary Shaw and art director Hideki Arichi seem to have taken advantage of every available penny, so the look of the film is dazzling but never overtakes the story. My one caveat is Clint Mansell’s score; I’m a fan of his early work with Darren Aronofsky, but as with 2007’s The Fountain, his music in Moon makes me feel like I’m going insane.
The film is a virtual one-man show for Rockwell, so it’s important we connect with him from the start. It’s a completely engaging performance – on the same level as Tom Hanks’ solo act in Cast Away. Jones proves there’s hope yet for low-budget sci-fi outside the schlocky realm of the Sci Fi Channel.