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11th Feb 11
Sam Bell discovers that 3 years alone on the moon is too long.
In Moon Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a lone lunar technician stationed on the moon on a three year mission to oversee the farming of Helium-3, a rich energy resource that is solving the problem with the worldís fuel shortage. Heís alone there, on the dark side with no direct real-time link with Earth (apparently the antenna is broken and itís way down his employer, Lunar Industriesí priority list to fix) and with only his robot Gerty for company, who is programmed to respond to his every need. But with two weeks left to go before returning home, Sam starts to become aware that 3 years isolated with only a robot to talk to is too much, and itís only the occasional video message from his wife Tess or young daughter Eve that keep him sane.
Or is he sane? One morning while pouring coffee he sees a girl in the cafeteria, and consequently pours scolding coffee on his hand. While bandaging his wound Gerty enquires as to what has happened, only for Sam to reply that he was distracted by something on the TV. Gerty coldly points out that the TV wasnít on, and Sam reacts by trying to brush the incident under the carpet.
Itís not long before Samís seeing things again, and while driving a lunar rover out to fix a malfunctioning mechanical harvester Sam has an accident, crashing the rover and breaking the air tight seal in the vehicle as a result. Itís all he can do to get his space helmet on before all the air rushes out, and then Sam passes out.
He wakes in the medical bay back at the base. Gerty tells him heís had an accident and itís not unusual for him not to remember any of it, so Sam goes about his daily life as usual, until he accidentally stumbles on Gerty having a real time communication with Earth, and hears the powers that be tell Gerty to under no circumstances let Sam go outside until the rescue team have arrived. Sam, instantly suspicious, hatches a plan to trick Gerty in to letting him outside. What donít they want him to discover? What will he find there? And how long does he have until the so-called rescue team arrive?
Moon, to be frank, is a wonderful film. It carries on the great tradition of low-budget sci-fi chillers (Silent Running, Dark Star, Android, err, Phase IV) by having a quality and unlikely story and concentrating on the script and the performances of the leads rather than on big thrills and fancy special effects. The sets are what youíd expect from a contemporary film set on a moon base, i.e. the look is industrial with a lot of bland, cold lighting, which you could say is heavily influenced by 2001, but to be fair hasnít every sci-fi ever looked the same? (Alien, Aliens, Dark Star, even Moon Zero Two back in the late 60s had a similar look.) Gerty is worth mentioning though, he is heavily and surprisingly non-humanoid, looking more like and overgrown Gonk from Star Wars than anything else. He does have a chilling looking view screen though, replacing Halís scary red dot with a potentially scarier acid face that changes expression to match his mood, so maybe we should acknowledge the 2001 reference after all, especially if we also add Kevin Spaceyís voice over for Gerty mimicking the brooding calmness of Halís down to a tee.
But itís important not to get bogged down with Moon and comparisons to other movies, as Moonís very original central story line steals the show. That, and Sam Rockwellís powerhouse performance as Sam Bell. To go in to too much detail here explaining why this performance is so strong would be a problem though and would give the game away as to why the film is so profound. We would be, in fact, letting the cat out of the bag in a big way. To be honest with you, writing about Moon without mentioning the plot twist a third of the way in is very difficult as the movie revolves around this pivotal moment. When the reality of the situation hits home itís the kind of movie that makes you ask a lot of questions, makes you put yourself into the main characters shoes. What would you do? How would you react? What if? These are all horrible questions that you find yourself asking, and for many days to come after your initial viewing.
The sets are great, even the outdoor miniature effects, the lighting sets the mood perfectly, the score is cracking (the Groundhog Day style use of I am the One and Only to wake Sam up every day is genius) and the editing is assured, meaning Moon is a smooth ride. Just be ready for a few surprises along the way and draw your own conclusions at the end, but I canít recommend Moon more highly.