Justin does Moon

“I’m here to keep you safe, Sam. I want to help you.”

The Scoop: 2009 R, directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey

Tagline: The last place you’d ever expect to find yourself

Summary Capsule: Lonely lunar lunatic finds out that hardcore isolation isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be

Justin’s Rating: The beagle has landed

Justin’s Review: I was watching a documentary on the early moon landings a little while back, noting the footage shot on the surface, and it really hit me then just how foreign this place was, how there really wasn’t an atmosphere or any colors, and how lonely the astronauts might’ve felt, being that far away from everything else that was human.  I guess that was the point in my life that I stopped romanticizing space travel and got the genuine willies at the thought of going some place so incredibly far away.

Moon, a quiet little scifi drama that landed in the middle of a year dominated by big loud stupid scifi setups, is all about severed humanity cast adrift in the loneliest place in the galaxy.  It’s more or less a one-man play, with Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest) as Sam Bell, an employee of a helium mining company who’s wrapping up his three-year contract on the dark side of the moon (cue Pink Floyd).  In charge of the base and its four harvesters all by himself – with the assistance of a HAL-like robot named Gerty (Kevin Spacey) – Sam whittles a little town out of wood, grows plants, runs on a treadmill and composes letters to his wife on Earth to keep sane.

The problem is, from the very first scene, that Sam is unraveling in some small but critical way.  He’s seeing things, off-kilter from talking to himself, and desperate for human contact.  This is all reflected in the worn-down base itself, which is far from the pristine corridors of the Enterprise – in fact, it’s more like the gritty mining vessel Nostromo from Alien than anything else.

Something is going on, and there is a mystery to be solved indeed.  I’d be a foul Scrooge to ruin or even hint toward it, so I’ll just skirt around the meat of the plot to touch on the peripherals instead.  As Sam discovers that everything isn’t quite right, the creeping claustrophobia and isolation closes in.  The score is ominous, the clues unsettling, and the revelation absolutely thought-provoking.  This isn’t a movie where a lot happens, or happens fast, but when it does it sticks with you like a thick dab of peanut butter on the brain.

I deeply appreciated that the science fiction elements weren’t there as the highlight of the story, but just part of the matter-of-fact background.  With another $40 million, this script would’ve been blown up into a crowd-pleasing pile of explosions and snappy lines, but would’ve lost its soul in the process.  Instead, Moon reminds us that one of the things scifi does best is to raise captivating questions about our here and now, but explore them in alien settings to gain a new perspective.

I will say this in conclusion: I’ve never seen a movie where smiley face emotes could have such power to disturb – and move – me.  For that alone, Moon is worthy of your time.

"Well, that's it. I'm going nudist for the rest of my stay."

Intermission!

  • Shot in 33 days.  Outdoor moon scenes were shot using practical effects.
  • Many of the “girlie” pictures taped next to Sam Bell’s bathroom mirror are by the classic American pinup artist Gil Elvgren (1914-1980).
  • Before making Moon, Duncan Jones was more famous for being the son of David Bowie.

Groovy  Quotes

Sam Bell: You look like a radioactive tampon.

GERTY: I’m here to keep you safe, Sam. I want to help you.

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