The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 18, 2010

Moon (2009)

Moon (2009)

A little-seen, unheralded gem from director/writer Duncan Jones, stars a superb Sam Rockwell as a solitary technician running a Helium-3 mine on the moon, on a 3-year contract. He is getting a little antsy as the end of his shift approaches. Let's just say that Sam starts suspecting that all is not well, and leave it at that. With a divine Kevin Spacey as the HAL-like station computer, this meditation on identity, isolation, and the nature of life itself is just superb science fiction, every bit as solid as "District 9" and made for a fraction of the money. THIS is incredible low-budget filmmaking, and I have nothing but respect for the creativity displayed in both these films. All things considered, the five million dollar "Moon" gets a solid "A" both for effort and execution. Seek it out...genuinely disturbing and thought provoking. Filmmaking of this kind needs to be celebrated and encouraged.


The twist I'm about to discuss happens at the end of the first act, so I'm not giving anything gigantic away...but Rockwell's character discovers that the base has a rather unique back-up plan in case of accident: clones. When he returns from a crash to find a clone has already replaced him, it raises some very disturbing questions indeed, and I've never seen it done better. Is a clone alive? Has it a soul? Does it have rights? Dear God, what do we think of the person or persons who set this entire thing in motion?

I have to mention that the effects creating the illusion of two "Rockwells" are just wonderful, and in several instances I had to force myself to remember one actor was playing both roles. Again, I'm not at all certain I've ever, ever seen it done better. Five million dollars? That isn't the catering budget on most SF movies. I love this, I really do.


The emotional isolation Rockwell experiences at the beginning of the film made me wonder how I would react to three years alone in such a situation, and under what conditions I would do it. I THINK I could handle it, if, for instance, I would earn enough to support my family for the rest of our lives. What would I need? Basic life support, of course. Books, and writing equipment. Communication links. The knowledge that Tananarive was witing for me when I got back. Enough variety in diet to keep from going batshit. Music and art. And, let's see...what else am I forgetting? What would you need to survive alone on the moon for three years?


Just me, or was Sigourney Weaver hotter than hell on SNL? I love mature women who have taken care of themselves. Until 30, your body is a gift of nature. After 40, it's what you can take and hold. Yum.


And while we're talking SNL, who suddenly gave Keenan a talent transplant? He's actually...funny.


Raining outside. Jason and I were playing "Little Big Planet," an utterly charming non-violent game (if you ignore those hungry crocs!)


Shady_Grady said...

I liked "Moon" but I had the exact opposite reaction to seeing Sigourney Weaver on SNL. I thought that time had finally caught up to her as it does to everyone.

Scott said...

You forgot the squat rack; it would be cool to squat a ton!

Anonymous said...

Dude, look at her chest in Ghostbusters and then check it out in Galaxy Quest.

Where'd those come from?

And what else came from the same place?


Martin L. Shoemaker said...

In a just world, Moon would be up for the Oscar, and Sam Rockwell up for one (or maybe two) as well; and Avatar would be up for all the technical Oscars, but a shut-out on the story Oscars. I could argue Best Director for Mr. Cameron; but dollar for dollar, I think Duncan Jones accomplished more. If ever anyone doubts that constraints can make for better art, show them Moon.

SPOILER ALERT (Just in case anyone skipped over Steve's spoilers and to the comments)

I think the isolation explains to some degree the false memory trail they set up for Sam. The troubled marriage and "we need time apart" give him motivation to diligently put in his time and not pine for home. Well, he pines for home; but he believes that by fulfilling his contract, he's actually making his home life better. And then right at the point where he's starting to wear out and may need motivation to keep him going, the messages from home become more encouraging.

If you watch the interviews on the DVD, Duncan Jones explains that the original Sam was actually a party to creating the false memory history, in exchange for large piles of money. That man may be a bigger bastard than the whole of Lunar Industries: "Screw those other mes! I've got the hot wife and the money!"

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Oh, and I should add: with Moon, I officially forgive Sam Rockwell for participating in that disappointing adaptation of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That was a mostly above average cast with a script that managed to be below average in almost every way.

jpcane said...

I agree that Moon was an excellent film. I had rented it this weekend. I've always enjoyed watching Sam Rockwell's performances (he was hilarious in Galaxy Quest -- Sigorney Weaver too!).
The movie unfolded nicely with a great score. And for once a robot that isn't evil.

bwebster said...

Moon was one of my three top films for 2009 (the other two being "District 9" and "Sherlock Holmes"). And, as Martin said, Rockwell really, really deserves an Oscar nomination. If you watch the 'making of' documentary on the DVD, you'll see Jones rave about Rockwell's ability to get the timing just right when interacting with himself via separate shots.

(Martin: I also agree with you about "Avatar". Compare the one-note antagonists in "Avatar" [corporate bad guy, military bad guy] with Gary Oldman in "The Book of Eli", who makes a pretty convincing case for why he's doing what he's doing.)

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

jpcane, thanks! I didn't realize that was Rockwell in Galaxy Quest. He's pretty versatile.

bwebster, you've just added District 9, Sherlock Holmesand The Book of Eli to my must-see list. Especially Book of Eli: I know next to nothing about it, but I prefer a story where the antagonist has depth and reason on his side. Hate and greed and sadism are such one-dimensional motives for the antagonist. A strong antagonist should believe he's in the right, or at least be able to lie to himself about it.

Bob Hawkins said...

Or as I put it: Up to age 30, you're a product of evolution. After age 40, you're a byproduct of evolution..

unclebryan said...

If you want to see the superb Sam Rockwell in an excellent film then you should check out "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind". He's the real deal. He's also in another indie film called "Lawn Dogs" which I hear is real good too. Haven't seen it though so no thumbs up or down on that one.

Yeah, he was great in "Galaxy Quest" too - as was Alan Rickman in a surprisingly dramatic comedy role. And Tim Allan can act too. When he and Sigourney Weaver's character were about to be crushed to death by the space bad guys he turned to her and said..."Gwen... I..." and that's all that needed to be said. Great scene where just a little dialog was just right.

Bruce Hoult said...

I've got to disagree with Bruce. Take out Sherlock Holmes (which was OK) and substitute "The Reader", which is one of the best performances Kate Winslet has ever given, and deals with questions just as deep as Moon and District 9 do.

Anonymous said...

The "evil corporation" that was too cheap to train a replacement was a disappointing villain. The costs of creating and maintaining clones, then sending a recovery crew every three years, had to be more expensive than finding a new Sam. If the company had found such a revolutionary energy source it would be awash in money and not worried about paying someone a huge sum to run the moon. (Have not watched extra features - perhaps the original Sam was complicit - does not explain clones as cost-cutting). That said, agree with kudos for Rockwell and top notch low-budget film making.


Eric said...

Couldn't take Moon for more than 10 minutes. The premise is just dumb. No corporation making that much money is going to leave a single guy to oversee operations for 3 years. Why not just do it with remote robots from Earth then? or Earth orbit or something like that? It's a plot hole you could drive one of those excavators through.

Levitra Generico said...

Thanks for sharing!!