How many times have you heard the phrase, ‘they don’t make them like that anymore’? Well, next time some smart arse film fanatic bangs on about the golden age of science fiction cinema, point them in the direction of Moon. Not the actual moon, you understand, that would be taking things a little too far. I’m talking about Sam Rockwell’s (Frost/Nixon) latest movie, an engrossing journey directed by Duncan Jones. You can forget the smash, bang, wallop of Star Trek, this is an altogether different kind of cinematic beast, more at home with genre classics 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running.
Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the completion of his 3-year contract with Lunar Industries, mining Earth’s primary source of energy on the dark side of the moon. The only company he has is a vigilant computer called, wait for it, Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). The only contact he has with the outside world comes via satellite messages from his wife and young daughter. He can’t wait to get home, but a freak accident changes everything he thought he knew about his world, leading to paranoia, altered fates and shocking revelations.
Sam Rockwell is a one man band in Moon, as he’s pretty much the only actor in the entire movie. Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie no less) wanted to work with him on another project but they couldn’t agree on a character, so Duncan wrote a movie around his shooting star instead, and the end result is cosmic. Make no mistake about it, Sam Rockwell is a revelation in Moon. I’ve always been a fan of his. Matchstick Men and Frost/Nixon were signs of things to come, but it’s his interpretation of a man on the edge that finally seals the deal.
Rockwell is mesmerising here, especially considering the plot developments that hinder his quest later on. It’s award worthy stuff, and I was truly captivated throughout. Even Kevin Spacey is able to inject warmth and doubt into a thankless role as the base’s computer, with the relationship that forms between the two characters proving understated, yet crucial, come the heartfelt conclusion.
Events unfold slowly, throwing us in at the deep end with Sam’s sense of detachment from the rest of the world. Brief video messages from his wife and daughter break the monotony of a tiresome existence, but we’re clearly spending time with a man who wants to go home. The second act brings with it plot twists and revelations that dig far deeper than your typical run of the mill sci-fi spectacle. Moon was shot on a low budget that adds, rather than subtracts, from the overall experience.
It’s an old school sci-fi offering in mind, body and soul. Special effects are used sparingly, but give the movie a quality that’s so much more rewarding than the cartoon sheen of modern day monstrosities. For all its 70s/80s styling, Moon feels surprisingly fresh and original. It’s a rare thing these days, especially in the world of modern sci-fi where CGI takes precedence, to witness a movie that actually makes you think. A film that rattles around inside your brain for the next few days and refuses to go away. Moon is one such experience.
It’s incredible to think that films like Transformers continue to make millions (not that I’m opposed to robots in disguise), while intelligent movies like this are left on the dark side of the shelf. It might not be to everyone’s taste; anyone anticipating big bangs and action pizzazz will most likely rip off their own pointy ears. But if you’re looking for something that engages your mind as well as your matter, Moon might be the small step you’re after.
Original and gripping, sombre yet uplifting, Moon brings with it a standout lead performance from Rockwell and a welcome sense of worth. It might even make you question your own humanity. I guess they really do still make them like they used to, after all. AW