Moon is the anti-Star Trek. No, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means that it takes the science fiction genre to places movies like Trek look past. Moon’s implications are devastating and wondrous; the technology presented is less something for viewers to marvel at and more an expression of the movie’s themes, characters rather than backdrops. It’s a quiet, somber and thoughtful piece, free of action but filled to the brim with existential ideas.
To discuss Moon’s plot at great length would be to steal the chance away from new viewers to discover its greatest mysteries. So I’ll only say that Moon is about Sam Bell, a lonely man who has worked on a corporate space station on the moon for three years, maintaining an energy retrieval system for Lunar Industries.
After three years, Sam’s life has become redundant. He talks to his plants. He’s built a trusting relationship with the robot assistant, Gerty (voiced wonderfully by Kevin Spacey), meant to help him through his time on the moon. He’s even starting to see things. Weird things. All of this likely due to the absence of human connection that happened when he lost his live feed to Earth, something that occurs long before we meet Sam. Instead, he’s forced to communicate with home through a message system that takes hours to relay and leaves him free of true interaction.
The first thing that needs to be addressed here is Sam Rockwell’s performance. It’s impossible to tell just how amazing Rockwell’s acting is in this movie because to do so would reveal all that makes it great. Sam (the person, not the character) digs into himself, pulling out a multilayered character. We’re able to see just how much Sam (the character, not the person) has grown in his time on the ship, starting out as a somewhat pompous alpha male with little regard for his family and slowing changing into a sympathetic, sensitive man whose time with his plants is cherished and only friend is a machine.
Director Duncan Jones does things with $5 million that one would think are impossible, as movies for far more have looked far less beautiful. You have wonder where all the money for disasters like Ghost of Girlfriends Past goes. The sets are simple but effective, and the scenes on the moon look more astounding than real, which works.
If there’s a flaw here, it’s that Moon wants to say more than it has time to. With only 90 minutes to spare, the film attempts to make comments about space travel for corporate gain, memory and the human mind, the consciousness of technology, and other human advances which can’t really be discussed here without heading to Spoiler Land. While the movie hits all of these notes well, it tends to hit them too fast, leaving the viewer to realize it all long outside of the theatre. Important plot points are revealed in the blink of an eye, and while you’re trying to put it all together, the story continues on screen.
Moon starts out being about a man dealing with loneliness and what the mind can do when left to itself. It then transitions into a movie about the same man dealing with consciousness, memory, and what it means to be alive. Duncan Jones has done so much with so little. He’s made a beautifully complicated work that is somehow wonderfully simple at the same time. None of it could have been done without Sam Rockwell, this is his movie. This is the portrait of an actor, one which deserves several viewings rather than just one long gaze. Word is that Duncan Jones plans to make a Moon trilogy, and if that’s at all true, it’s a journey that, as a viewer, I’d be more than interested to follow.