Moon has all the trappings of what could very well be a disappointing Alien remake: blue-collar workers in outer space, a sinister-seeming robot and a space station with far too many nooks and crannies for viewers to feel comfortable. Yet, as the story develops, it’s easy to see that Moon has much more depth than the aforementioned sci-fi thriller classic achieves. Moon is a story that puts common conceptions of humanity and memory into question, and does so in an intelligent manner.
Sam Rockwell (Frost/Nixon, The Green Mile) is Sam Bell, an employee of Lunar Industries, a company which has learned how to extract Helium 3 from the moon as a clean energy source to power planet earth. A one-man mining team nearing the end of his three year contract on the moon, Sam spends his free time working on a model town, exercising and talking to the pathetic-looking plants in the green room. His only companion is GERTY, a boxy robot who conveys feelings via a large emoticon on his mechanical veneer. GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, The Usual Suspects), is alternatively eerie and comical as he tries to help Sam through his final weeks at the station.
Directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son), Moon takes on a surreal element as Sam starts to see things that aren’t there, subsequently leading to an injury that turns his whole world upside down. Following his accident, Sam is given strict restrictions by the mysterious GERTY and his elusive bosses. Disobeying orders, Sam discovers a terrible truth that puts the very meaning of his existence into question.
The movie’s pacing is deliberately and provocatively slow, sometimes eliciting the same frustration that Sam experiences as the movie progresses. Stunning moonscapes are showcased throughout, and the camerawork is otherwise outstanding, enhancing Rockwell’s nuanced and complex approach to his role as he literally has conversations with himself.
Moon refuses to lend itself to poorly lit action sequences, extraterrestrial characters, overtly philosophical discussions, or any of the other taints that have spotted the science fiction genre since the mid-70s. Rather, Sam’s tribulations speak for themselves. Still, many of the movie’s underlying messages are rehashed –- despite being presented in a thought-provoking manner –- making the final sequences a bit difficult to stomach.
In spite of its awkward pacing and its revisited thematic elements, Moon’s intricate subtleties make it a stand-out in recent sci-fi history, and a definite must-see for lovers of earlier classics of the genre.