Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Moon

A sad but clever science-fiction exercise about a man working alone on the Moon, with nothing but a talking computer and tape-recorded calls back to Earth to keep him sane.

May 19, 2009

-By Chris Barsanti


filmjournal/photos/stylus/84751-Moon_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Duncan Jones, a commercials director, former camera operator for Tony Scott, and the son of David Bowie, makes a sure-footed entry into the feature directing ranks with Moon, an impressive science-fiction allegory whose moral implications are as troubling as they are prescient.

Working literally on the dark side of the Moon in the near-future, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is technically an astronaut but is really like an outer-space oil-rigger for Halliburton. An employee of Lunar Industries, the world's top supplier of clean energy (as the relentlessly cheery ad which opens the film proclaims), Sam minds the dingy Sarang mining station, whose sole purpose is the mining of Helium-3 for use back on Earth. His only companions are the station's computer, Gerty (voiced with kindly world-weariness by Kevin Spacey) and a number of plants whom he's given names to.

When Nathan Parker's script introduces us to Sam, he's nearing the end of his three-year contract, and seems to be quite the worse for wear. Long-haired and distracted, he drags about the station, performing his duties with minimum enthusiasm and looking like some barely animated stuffed animal whose seams are coming undone from overuse. The station's long-range communications are damaged, leaving Sam able to speak only with his superiors and family (a sparkling wife and adorable baby girl) by recorded message. After Sam nearly dies in a clumsy accident, he awakens faced with a man who appears to be a younger and more together version of himself. Questions of his sanity and, ultimately, humanity spring up like so many weeds.

Clint Mansell's somber, jarring score supports the images of a man going through the motions with decreasing interest, whose despair and solitude unmoor him. Jones' stated admiration for an earlier era's dystopian works like the underrated Outland are clearly on view here in Moon's workaday, prosaic vision of what is to come. Sarang's look is more prefab industrial than iPod designer gleam; it's like the inside of a sterile Kubrick space pod after years without cleaning. Dirt has accumulated like loneliness and the post-it notes Sam leaves for himself everywhere (including, in a nice touch, one stuck to the back of Gerty's module that reads "Kick Me"). As in that 1981 Peter Hyams thriller, the backdrop here—which appears to be something close to lunar strip-mining—couldn't be less romantic.

Moon suffers through some saggy patches after it starts to wrestle with the conundrum raised when Sam meets his double. It's certainly not the fault of the film's star, who demonstrates that if you're going to be stuck with a possibly insane man for the better part of an hour and a half, it might as well be one played by Rockwell (who shows here, as in last year's Choke, what a joke it is that he's never been considered leading-man material). There may simply have been too little in Parker's script to play with beyond a couple of plot twists. But Jones' ability to craft a thoughtful and emotive piece of science fiction out of little more than a clever concept, a single set, and some not-too-convincing special effects is nothing to be ignored. This may not be Tarkovsky, but it's about as close as one can realistically hope for.


Film Review: Moon

A sad but clever science-fiction exercise about a man working alone on the Moon, with nothing but a talking computer and tape-recorded calls back to Earth to keep him sane.

May 19, 2009

-By Chris Barsanti


filmjournal/photos/stylus/84751-Moon_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Duncan Jones, a commercials director, former camera operator for Tony Scott, and the son of David Bowie, makes a sure-footed entry into the feature directing ranks with Moon, an impressive science-fiction allegory whose moral implications are as troubling as they are prescient.

Working literally on the dark side of the Moon in the near-future, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is technically an astronaut but is really like an outer-space oil-rigger for Halliburton. An employee of Lunar Industries, the world's top supplier of clean energy (as the relentlessly cheery ad which opens the film proclaims), Sam minds the dingy Sarang mining station, whose sole purpose is the mining of Helium-3 for use back on Earth. His only companions are the station's computer, Gerty (voiced with kindly world-weariness by Kevin Spacey) and a number of plants whom he's given names to.

When Nathan Parker's script introduces us to Sam, he's nearing the end of his three-year contract, and seems to be quite the worse for wear. Long-haired and distracted, he drags about the station, performing his duties with minimum enthusiasm and looking like some barely animated stuffed animal whose seams are coming undone from overuse. The station's long-range communications are damaged, leaving Sam able to speak only with his superiors and family (a sparkling wife and adorable baby girl) by recorded message. After Sam nearly dies in a clumsy accident, he awakens faced with a man who appears to be a younger and more together version of himself. Questions of his sanity and, ultimately, humanity spring up like so many weeds.

Clint Mansell's somber, jarring score supports the images of a man going through the motions with decreasing interest, whose despair and solitude unmoor him. Jones' stated admiration for an earlier era's dystopian works like the underrated Outland are clearly on view here in Moon's workaday, prosaic vision of what is to come. Sarang's look is more prefab industrial than iPod designer gleam; it's like the inside of a sterile Kubrick space pod after years without cleaning. Dirt has accumulated like loneliness and the post-it notes Sam leaves for himself everywhere (including, in a nice touch, one stuck to the back of Gerty's module that reads "Kick Me"). As in that 1981 Peter Hyams thriller, the backdrop here—which appears to be something close to lunar strip-mining—couldn't be less romantic.

Moon suffers through some saggy patches after it starts to wrestle with the conundrum raised when Sam meets his double. It's certainly not the fault of the film's star, who demonstrates that if you're going to be stuck with a possibly insane man for the better part of an hour and a half, it might as well be one played by Rockwell (who shows here, as in last year's Choke, what a joke it is that he's never been considered leading-man material). There may simply have been too little in Parker's script to play with beyond a couple of plot twists. But Jones' ability to craft a thoughtful and emotive piece of science fiction out of little more than a clever concept, a single set, and some not-too-convincing special effects is nothing to be ignored. This may not be Tarkovsky, but it's about as close as one can realistically hope for.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Small Time
Film Review: Small Time

You might not buy a used car from the guys in Small Time, but you will enjoy the movie about their exploits, even their exploitations (of others). More »

Fading Gigolo
Film Review: Fading Gigolo

Some top screen talent gets lost in the silliness surrounding the amorous adventures of an unlikely gigolo and his even more unlikely pimp, with writer/director/actor John Turturro the shtupper “ho” co-starring with Woody Allen as the mercenary shtup-enabler. Yarmulkes off to Turturro’s brave but deeply ill-conceived comedic foray into Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community and other alien territory. More »

A Promise
Film Review: A Promise

Handsomely filmed but wan period romance. More »

Final Member
Film Review: The Final Member

Breezy documentary about the aging owner of a small Icelandic museum dedicated to penises and his quest for one last, coveted exhibit is a charmer, thanks to the warmth and sly sense of humor the protagonist brings to his unusual hobby. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here