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While book racks are brimming with thought provoking, high concept
science fiction, the movie genre tends to be populated by invading
aliens, intergalactic wars, and adventure, which makes Director and
co-writer Duncan Jones' Moon that much more of an oddity.
Not since Steven Soderbergh's much overlooked 2002 rendition of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris has a movie firmly rooted in the sci-fi realm delivered reflections on the human condition, which Moon does deftly.
It tells the story of Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only inhabitant of an automated lunar mining base extracting Helium-3 from lunar rocks to be shipped back to Earth to fuel the energy starved planet.
Sam's isolated three year posting is about to come to an end and he longs to return to Earth to see his wife. His only company throughout this sojourn has been that of Gerty, the base's HAL-like robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. Unfortunately, the final weeks and days are proving to be the most difficult, and Sam finds himself going a bit squirrelly, leaving both he and the audience to wonder if what's unfolding is actually happening, or merely a drama taking place in his addled mind.
That's about as much plot detail as I'm going to deliver, for to delve any deeper into the story would give too much away. Be prepared, however, for a thought provoking narrative that touches on issues such as scientific ethics, corporate greed, human identity, and compassion.
There are no aliens, lasers/phasers, wormholes, warp engines or jump drives here, just a lonely space age concierge, an unflappable monotone robot, and a whole lot of fodder for your brain to chow down on.
This is what science fiction was meant to be.
Go see this movie! I've been lucky enough to have an opportunity to see
this movie down here at SXSW and I am the better for it.
You don't really stumble upon many riveting, independent, sci-fi films that look beautiful(let alone don't contain aliens and space magic) and capture major emotional themes successfully. Moon accomplishes this, and with very little CGI at that.
Sam Bell is an astronaut working for a corporation on the far side of the moon. His job? Maintaining a lunar facility and the automated machines which are harvesting the moon's surface for Helium 3. The harvested material is then sent back to Earth to use as energy.
Sam is on the very last leg of a three year contract and is quite anxious to return to his wife and daughter. Barring any incidents, Sam will be able to leave his solitude. But something does go wrong.
That said, tremendous acting by Sam Rockwell carries this film - mainly because he is basically the only person in the movie. I'm not talking about Cast Away meets the moon This film explores loneliness much deeper than that, and with much more emotion as well. Luckily for us there are no pieces of sports equipment on which the lead dotes, but instead we're blessed with a monotonous talking robot(voiced by Kevin Spacey) reminiscent of Hal from 2001 notoriety.
I advise that people go see this film, not only to support Duncan, the director, and Sam, but also to explore to possibilities of space and the humanity of loneliness.
Don't go in expecting to find what I have discussed, but go in expecting to find something inside yourself.
In short, this is one of the best sci-fi movies I have seen in a LONG time. Sam Rockwell plays it perfect, making the viewer feel his isolation and lonelieness. For a low budget film, the few effect shots work seamlessly. I'm trying to remain spoiler free, so I won't bother to explain the plot. If you like older and more story/character driven sci-fi, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, than chances are you will love this movie. If you aren't a huge fan of sci-fi, take a chance with this one. You may find it a very rewarding experience. I loved this movie, and I can't stop thinking about it. In Moon, you may begin to think that everything is a big cliché, but than with all of the seemingly cliché plot points, Moon changes them into something entirely original and unexpected. It is an excellent piece of art and I have a strong feeling not enough people will see and appreciate it like I did.
I attended a screening of "Moon" at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival in the legendary Paramount Theatre. There wasn't an empty seat in the 1300-capacity palace. Directed by Duncan Jones, "Moon" stars Sam Rockwell, one of our generation's most powerful actors. The notion of a film being unique seems unlikely in 2009. Not here. While "Moon" is a modern-day science fiction film set in the future, it pays homage to recent classics like "Blade Runner" and "Alien." Viewers will be dazzled -- fans of the genre will nod in approval. Science has developed a way to mine the rocks of the moon for clean energy here on earth. Private enterprise, in the form of a corporation, sends astronauts on a three-year work stint to carry out this ongoing mission. Sam Bell (Rockwell) is the latest to undertake this task, with the trusted robot GERTY by his side watching over the base's operations -- think HAL with a heart. Of course, things are not what they seem, and the viewer is mesmerized as puzzling and surprising events unfold. Cinematographer Gary Shaw contributes to the impression of the eerie stillness of life on the moon with the copious use of still camera and slow tracking shots, only using hand-held when necessary. Nicolas Gaster's editing is sure and steady, emphasizing the slow pace of Sam Bell's multi-year work assignment. Remember those pre-CGI days when special effects meant miniature land rovers on a bumpy table? It can still be done -- and be believable. "Moon" is evocative of the sci-fi greats whose visuals were done in-camera, i.e., on set as opposed to being created by computers in post-production. Sam Bell's unearthly home is comfortable yet aging like the patina of an old cottage. Nathan Parker's screenplay (Jones wrote the story but handed over screen writing duties to Parker) makes the most of Sam Rockwell's considerable talents. This was quite a physically demanding role, as well, and rarely has the actor been better (watch "Snow Angels," though). He doesn't just carry the film -- "Moon" is almost a one-man show and Rockwell conducts a master class. "Moon" is a classic, down and dirty (literally) science fiction film with a baffling mystery that challenges the viewer to live in the shoes of the protagonist. It's hard to imagine a better one than Sam Rockwell or a more effective, entertaining, and satisfying cinematic experience.
This was the best movie I have seen in a very in a very long time and immediately jumps into my favorite movies ever. MOON puts a relatable human touch on an intriguing and deep sci-fi story that, while it originally appears to be taking the path of 2001 Space Odyssey, is a unique adventure. Sam Rockwell puts on a spellbinding performance and Kevin Spacey's GERTY voice-over is eery and excellent. I have never seen a movie that had me so engrossed and intrigued from beginning to end. Some may say the film starts slowly but I found the first half hour to be an important and gripping portrayal of what it would mean to be alone in space, without which the movie would not be as effective. I don't want to ruin the plot so I wont go into further detail. As an avid movie watcher who is not a sci-fi buff I would recommend this movie to anybody who wants to see a movie that will take over their lives for 2 hours and have you leave the theater wanting to do nothing but discuss how beautifully layered it was.
Okay, here's the basic plot (without the twist-spoiler):
Place: The moon. Time: A future not long from now (2030-ish I think). Sam Bell, astronaut, is working on a lunar base of some sort. He is the only person on the entire base, only assisted by an all-knowing robot called GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). He has been stationed on the base for almost 3 years, his contract nearing an end, and with his flight back to earth scheduled only 14 days away, he can't wait to get back home to see his wife and daughter again. However, suddenly one of the automated moon-vehicles (harvesting rock-samples or whatever) goes awry, and he goes outside of the base to investigate it... but then something unexpected happens, and he has to change his perspective on everything.
- End of basic plot summary.
Bell is played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell, whom you probably know from "Charlie's Angels", "The Green Mile", "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", "Matchstick Men" or the equally brilliant sci-fi movies "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and "Galaxy Quest". This is probably his biggest part in a movie EVER, and I doubt if he will ever get a role as big as this again (not because he's not capable or worthy of it, but because it was a HUGE performance). If you're a fan of Rockwell (or perhaps of Kevin Spacey's voice), then you will not be disappointed, as they're both great in "Moon".
For sci-fi lovers, this movie is really a blast. It takes some inspiration from such classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Outland", "Silent Running", "Alien", and others, but still manages to be unique and original, something which has become increasingly rare in the recent big-budget/massive special effects/quick fix-tradition of Hollywood nowadays. "Moon" achieved something great for a budget of approximately 5 million dollars, which is ridiculously low by regular movie-standards, where a feature film usually would cost ten times that amount.
As for the theme of the movie, the subjects of alienation, solitude, dehumanization and disbelief are risen (among others), which often leads to some of the best movies (in my opinion), as is the case here too.
All in all, this movie definitely ranks among my personal top-20 all-time sci-fi favorites, and I will presume it will be placed equally high on most sci-fi aficionado's lists. An excellent debut directorial by Duncan Jones, and clearly one of the 5 best sci-fi movies made in the last 10 years. Already looking forward to his next feature film, which allegedly is also going to be a sci-fi movie (although with a much bigger budget).
Final rating: 9.5/10 - a nearly flawless movie.
The Moon has always been a source of wonder and mystery. It is so far
away, yet much closer than the stars. Man has reached the Moon, but
there is still so much that is unknown about it. It is a bridge between
mystery and fact, and director Duncan Jones uses it as a brilliant
setting for his science fiction film Moon.
The movie stars Sam Rockwell as a lunar astronaut also named Sam stationed alone on the Moon for three years. He isn't entirely alone, because the AI computer GERTY (Kevin Spacey) is constantly following him. Energy companies have discovered vast amounts of Helium on the Moon, and they now mine that Helium in order to power the Earth. As Sam begins his last two weeks stationed in the mining facility, his mind begins to break down and he soon realizes he just might not be able to make it back.
It is quite obvious that the main intention of Moon was to pay respect to the older science fiction movies like Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it is a great homage to the genre indeed. GERTY is possibly one of my favorite AI computers ever in a movie, because it constantly shows its mood through a series of different smiley faces, and has Kevin Spacey's voice. The overall story of Moon is pretty good, and it definitely tugs a bit on your emotions because the main character Sam is so real and relatable. It is a bit more of an art film, but I have found that the mixture of art and Sci-Fi is a brilliant combination.
The absolute key ingredient to making Moon was finding a capable actor because it is essentially a one man show, and they picked a winner with Sam Rockwell. Rockwell gives one of his best performances to date, and while it might be a little early to predict I can see him getting an Oscar nomination for his role. The other great thing about this picture is the special effects. Since the budget was so low this could have been a disaster, but the shots of the Moon Rovers and Harvesters were astonishingly realistic, and a typical movie goer would think this had at least a 40 million dollar budget. It is amazing how much more was accomplished with this tiny budget compared to the $200 million dollars poured into Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Overall Moon is a complete film. It isn't groundbreaking, but it accomplished everything it set out to be, which are a great homage and a chance for Sam Rockwell to really show his acting prowess. I found myself leaving the theater with a great feeling of satisfaction that I have only received from a couple movies this year so far.
I was led to this movie, partly because of a sort of dissatisfaction
from what we've known as science fiction due to Star-Treks, Star wars,
terminators and transformers. On my visit to the local independent
movie theater, I was only expecting something like Apollo 13 and I
would've been satisfied with just that.
But the movie proved to be much more. It wasn't just the cinematography, few captivating shots of the moon surface, or the great acting performance. It was as if the movie took a while to ponder over philosophical questions that science and technology raise- something that every science fiction ought to do.
This work won't be unworthy of a comparison with Kubrick's- space odyssey only that it is probably not as visually stimulating as the latter. It does make good use of classical music like Kubrick's. I found the movie to be a bit more accessible than Tarkovsky's Solaris in that it is much more fluid and entertaining (Solaris was 3 hr long executed very slow albeit with a similar idea). Like Solaris, the protagonist's recollections of the life on earth eventually result in some mental instability, but the movie stays away from getting into long philosophical debates on human experience or our place on earth.
In general, do expect a lot more than space travel in this movie. To cite an example, the isolation of Sam made him more attached to memories of his life on earth. I don't recall many other movies that have expressed it so well that in isolation, nothing really means anything. Kudos to the director! Such existentialist reflections aside, there are many instances when the movie makes a statement about unethical corporate practices, evasive HR responses - almost to the extent 'Michael Clayton' did. I think that makes it more worthwhile to watch. Still despite all that, it avoids taking any stances on controversies that bother all of us in modern times. It puts us through the fears of the unknown, catastrophes of distrust and what arises from distrust and isolation and all of that.
Still, somehow the movie isn't really as dark as the script might make it sound. There is isolation, mistrust, schemes, confusion, curiosities and despair, but the human experience probably transcends the realism of its existence that was the idea I carried back from the movie theater.
Originally posted to titsandgore.com, April 2009:
Moon is an auspicious debut from Duncan Jones (née Zowie Bowie), a talented new director who happens to be the son of David Bowie (let me officially be the first person to predict that every review of this film in the mainstream press will have the tagline "SPACE ODDITY!"). Sam Rockwell gives a truly remarkable performance as Sam Bell, a lunar miner who is nearing the end of his 3-year contract at a single-man mining outpost. His only companion is the station computer, Gertie, a straight-up HAL homage that tantalizingly suggests how a culture informed by decades of watching 2001 might choose to design a companion robot.
To say too much more about the plot would be to spoil its central conceit, and while I'm sure many reviewers will talk openly about it, I want to preserve the surprise if at all possible at least until the film gets its theatrical release this coming June.
Suffice it to say that Jones admirably mixes together stock genre tropes, paying tribute to a number of classic science fiction features while retaining his own idiosyncratically dark vision. Familiar filmic concepts of the "clean future" and the "dirty future" are mixed together to create a unique atmosphere; the milieu is suitably claustrophobic, the cramped quarters of the mining station serving the film's conceptual purposes while masking the shoestring budget. In fact, it may be hard to spare a glance at the meticulously designed sets with your eyes glued to Rockwell for the duration of the picture. His performance is utterly mesmerizing, inhabiting the role so completely that it is impossible to imagine any other actor having the chutzpah to pull it off.
Which is not to say that Moon is without its problems; the pacing is hardly consistent and Jones' reliance on Rockwell tends to undersell his direction. Parts of the film veer dangerously close to identical thematic elements in Steven Soderbergh's recent adaptation of Solaris, without being as emotionally potent. But what it lacks in originality is mostly compensated for by the sheer audacity of its central performance and the careful economy of its direction.
Moon may be dressed in familiar clothing, but it is a singular experience, a clever, darkly funny and genuinely moving journey into the nature of individuality. Jones is already at work on a second science fiction feature, and it is welcome indeed to see such a promising new talent continue to develop his voice by working in genre film-making!
The Sci-Fi department is a very hard market to break. Hence why greatness always seems to come from that genre......because normally when they are made, it usually takes millions of dollars to cover the special effects and what not......so the process of choosing the right script is somewhat limited, but they always leave their mark. However, this one is changing that pace.....in a rhealm of big budget Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica flicks, this movie chooses to take the independent route. By only spending 3 million for its budget, and using old school techniques for its special effects.....can a movie like this thrive in todays market? Well you know how i mentioned that the script selection for a Sci-Fi movie isa very tough market to break......and how the script better be incredible if it is going to make it anywhere........well this movie is just that. This movie was just plain brilliant. For those of you who have no idea what this film is about, allow me to shed some light on the subject.........In the future, our main character Sam Rockwell is living on a one man space station on the moon, whose should purpose it to retrieve and send precious resources from the moon back to the earth.....in this process he becomes very lonely and begins to uncover a horrible truth. The movie is directed and told in such a brilliant fashion......they never try to WOW you with its special effects, which are very moderate but pass with flying colors. Its script and method of storytelling are probably the best part. Instead of answering all of your questions all at once, they sort of draw them out and make you claw and scratch for the truth......but the thing that i like the most is how they approach everything.........they take a route that lets you know that you have seen all the other Sci-Fi classics, and addresses all of your concerns of what may happen or what is going to......and then just carries on like its hidding this secret from you.....almost like the movie knows what your thinking, but chooses not to correct you right away.......brilliantly told and shown in an even better light......and with Clint Mansell directing the musical score(Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain)......my god, how could you not be pulled in. Now the part that i am excited to talk about the most is the acting......because i really have not had anything to rave about so far this year.......but Sam Rockwell is hands down the best actor so far this year. He has already proved himself to me with "The Green Mile", "Frost/Nixon", and "Choke"......but he knocked this one out of the park. It was a difficult script to pull off for an actor, and he did it with leaps and bounds.......job well done. I will be very upset if he is not at least nominated this year. Bottom Line.......well, "Star Trek" gave you the action/entertainment portion of your Sci-Fi.......whereas this one gives you its underbelly. This is easily one of the best Sci-Fi movies i have seen in a long time, and that is saying a lot coming from me. There was not one thing wrong with this movie......maybe the end was a little sketchy, but it was still not enough to destroy this brilliant film. I urge all of you to go to your local independent movie theatre and watch this movie........you will regret it if you don't.......easily one of the 10 best movies i have seen this year.
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