By Neil McCormick
Time to confess, the first time I watched Moon I really was not sure what I thought about it. I could not make up my mind, was the film any good?, did I like it?, would I recommend it?. Some where during the second viewing, it was as if a switched had been pulled in my head – suddenly I got the film. I am not selling the film by saying it took me two views to enjoy it, but sometimes things reward you by putting in more effort. Moon is one such film.
I think part of Moon’s charm is the fact it is a welcome return to old school sci-fi. CGI effects, the great blight of modern cinema are kept to a minimum. Yes this is a Michael Bay free zone – rejoice! Instead the Director, gives the viewer his confidence that they are able to use their brain. This is old-school sci-fi, a psychological thriller built on suspense, meaning and strong performances. You pick up on the main character’s feeling of confinement and isolationism. As humans we can feel what he is going through. Incidently the Director is no other than David Bowie’s son – Duncan Jones.
The film is set in the near future, and opens with a propaganda film for a new energy souce, Earth had reached a crisis, energy supplies have been exhausted. Just as all hope had been lost Scientists discovered that moon rocks could be mined for a new source of energy – Helium 3. Each day, enough energy can be brought from the moon to provide the earth with energy.
The thing is, this is believable and is eerily similar to the plight our own planet is facing with natural oil and gas supplies dwindling.
Astronaut Sam Bell is living on the far side of the moon, completing a three-year contract with Lunar Industries to mine Helium-3. It is a lonely job, made harder by the communication satellite being broken and thus not allowing live communications home. Taped messages are all Sam can send and receive. When we join Sam, his time on the moon is nearly over, and Sam has reached the limit of his endurance – he is merely getting through the last of his stretch so he can be reunited with his wife, Tess, and their three-year-old daughter, Eve.
But, Sam’s health starts to deteriorate. Painful headaches, hallucinations and a lack of focus lead to an almost fatal accident on a routine drive on the moon in a lunar rover. While recuperating back at the base (with no memory of how he got there), Sam meets a younger, angrier version of himself, who claims to be there to fulfill the same three year contract Sam started all those years ago. Confined with what appears to be a clone of his earlier self, and with a “support crew” on its way to help put the base back into productive order, Sam is fighting the clock to discover what’s going on and where he fits into company plans.
Kevin Spacey plays the voice of the Computer Assistant GERTY that controls the moon base. This was a part made for Spacey’s voice, who else could convey sinister but sweet tones at the same time? . GERTY, who is represented almost as a clone of HAL from 2001: A Space Oddity. The inflections and intonations in Kevin Spacey’s vocal performance make it evident he studied Douglas Rain’s voicework for 2001 before providing his contribution to Moon. It’s an effective and reasoned choice, and the decision to link GERTY to HAL in viewers’ minds establishes expectations that work well for the development of the story
Considering there is only one character on screen for 90 of the 97 minutes running time in the film, the actor selected had to be able to guarantee they could produce when required. Sam Rockwell is absolutely perfect for the part. We live through him and encounter his feelings of isolationism and bewilderment regarding the events of the film.
I do not want to go any further into the plot. to do so will bring to your attention the overarcing twist to this tale. Believe me all is not what it seems on and off the lunar base.
Back in the early 1990’s Pop Will Eat It Self headed up by Clint Mansell were extremely popular, however by 1995 they had disbanded. It was of great interest to learn that the Sound track to the film had been composed by no other than Clint Mansell. True to his Pop will Eat It Self roots, the music produced is still as industrial as it ever was. Never dominating the scenes, it lended to developing the feeling of confinement and isolationism, I believe the Director was trying to convey. I never buy sound tracks, buy this is one I will be buying or asking for as a Christmas gift.
To conclude in a world of film where all you see is explosions, characters changing into different things, computer generated images placed just for the sake of it, Moon is a refreshing change. None of this happens, instead we the viewer are expected to use our own intelligence and come to terms with the psychological effects being introduced. I for one am delighted with this turn of events!