Moon is an amazing science fiction film made on a severely limited budget of $5 million. The plot is filled with small twists, and although it’s difficult to explain it without revealing too much, a basic overview is, I feel, necessary.
Sam Bell is stationed on the moon, the sole member at a base overseeing the automated harvesting of the raw materials sent back to Earth for energy production. His contract is 3 years, and there’s only a few weeks remaining. For the duration of his stay, his only companion is a computer named Gerty. While out collecting from one of the harvesters, Sam has an accident and wakes up in the infirmary back at the base. Going out again despite Gerty’s warnings, he returns to the harvester and in a crashed rover there finds… himself. Still alive, but injured, he’s returned to the infirmary. Sam, obviously quite disturbed by all this, is desperate to figure out what’s going on. Both of them are.
There’s a lot of overt references in Moon to other films of the genre, and Duncan Jones states this openly on the DVD special feature where he did a Q & A session after screening at the Space Center in Houston. Among the films that I noticed references to were 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Outland, and Jones makes note of many more. However, the story itself is highly original, which prevents Moon from seeming too much like a composite of these other sci-fi films.
Aiding this is Sam Rockwell’s outstanding acting. Although I don’t know that he pulls off the emotional aspect as well as could be done, he’s solid; and realizing that it’s one actor performing two roles which interact with each other is where things get interesing. It’s something that, during the film, is easy to overlook, but to think about it and to see some of the special features showing Rockwell not just holding conversations with himself but physically interacting with himself in two or more separate takes fluidly shows his talent. Also, Kevin Spacey as the voice of Gerty gives a subtle but wonderful performance.
Clint Mansell provided the score for the film and it is beautiful. It’s in parts as unsettling as some of the pieces that he’s done for Darren Aronofsky’s films (like Pi and The Fountain) and it feels solitary, comprised mainly of piano pieces.
Director Duncan Jones shows how much of a nerd he is in a lot of ways on this film. Not just with regards to other science fiction, but also regarding science itself. Although by no means an expert, he’s done his research, particularly regarding the idea of helium-3 and fusion energy. This helps to place the film firmly in the realm of hard sci-fi, adding it to a very short list of films in the genre.
The story is a wonderful piece of science fiction and a great psychological thriller. The performances are splendid, and the special effects, while not quite comparable to, say, District 9, are still largely unintrusive and very well-done, particularly in the scenes where Sam Rockwell interacts with himself. For all this and especially for doing sci-fi right, Moon earns a 9/10 from me.