Indie Sidebar : This “Moon” Has Plenty Of Atmosphere—And Gravity

Posted: August 9, 2009 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
"Moon" Movie Poster

"Moon" Movie Poster

First, the good news : at some unspecified future date, the world’s energy problems are finally solved. Now, the bad news : in order to get the mysterious substance known as “helium 3” to power earth’s now-abundant fusion plants, we need to mine it from moon rocks, leading to long, lonely stretches of isolation for the astronaut-miners who plunder the far side of our satellite for precious minerals. I imagine the gig must pay well, but three-year stints alone on the moon with only a clunky faceless service robot for company? No thanks.

Such is the position Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell of “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” among other fine performances) finds himself in at the beginning of “Moon,” a brilliant metaphysical science fiction film that marks the debut feature from British writer-director Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son). Absolute isolation with only his trusty metal buddy Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) to talk to. Things take a turn for the well and truly unexpected, though, when Sam wakes up from crashing his rover-type vehicle in his tiny base’s infirmary only to be confronted by a slightly younger and less-haggard looking version of —himself.

From the beginning, “Moon” confounds expectation. My first thought was that we were headed for another evil computer story, a la the HAL subplot from “2001” (mostly down to Spacey’s initial creepiness of Spacey’s delivery—but hey, he’s a robot, shouldn’t he sound—well—robotic?), but in truth what we’ve got here is an intense exploration of isolation, the meaning of memory, and an exploration of what it means to truly be human that can probably only be compared in terms of theme and style to Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” (we won’t even go near Steven Soderbergh’s horrendous 2002 remake of that classic because I could drone on for ages about what an absolute bastardization of everything good and decent in this universe that waste of celluloid represents).  It’s only a skin-deep comparison, though, as “Moon” really does stake out a thematic territory all its own and, like the heavy-duty lunar equipment central to its premise ( done entirely with models, by the way, as is the base itself—no CGI here, thank the heavens—all of which give the proceedings a vaguely “Space:1999” feel that is, I’m sorry to use the term, way cool) mines it for all it’s worth.

“Moon” is a tricky flick to review because you literally can’t talk about anything after the crash without giving away major plot points, so, in the interest of actually hoping to get anyone who might be reading this to see it, I’ll refrain. I will, however, offer a caveat or two—

If you don’t like Sam Rockwell, you won’t like this film. He’s essentially the only character, even though there’s more than one of him. He gives an incredibly diverse and affecting performance that should be worthy of Oscar consideration, and to say he carries the film would be a massive understatement. He IS the film, and in the hands of a lesser actor we’d be in serious disaster territory here. It’s one of the finest performances of recent years, but if you’re not a fan of Rockwell’s you NEED to skip this movie.

Along those same lines, if metaphysical studies of the human condition aren’t your thing, “Moon” won’t be, either. It’s a deeply introspective work and a provocative meditation on just what it is that constitutes the very notion of humanity itself. If you’re in the mood for mindless summer fun, again, give this a pass.

But if you want to be challenged about what the concept of existence itself can actually be defined as, then “Moon” is a movie you owe it to yourself to see. It’s intensely atmospheric, true, but there is genuine substance underneath it all, much more than we’ve, sadly, become accustomed to of late. “Moon” is a film that makes you think, and then think again. It poses key questions about our nature as people and doesn’t dispense easy answers. It’s provocative without being preachy, and invites philosophical queries of genuine depth without being self-indulgent or resorting to navel-gazing. It’s a very-near-perfectly-constructed character piece that presents complex material in a naturally-flowing and entirely unforced manner.

And I can’t leave any discussion, one-sided as it may be, about the film without saying “three cheers for nepotism!” Jones proves himself to be a truly able director in his own right, but what are the odds of something this singularly character-driven, and without a truly “bankable” star in the lead role, getting made if he’s the son of a janitor instead of a music legend? I’m betting zero. So here’s to those who were impressed enough by the director’s pedigree to green-light his project. And here’s to Jones for not wasting his opportunity by giving us another self-involved, unbearably pretentious “arthouse” flick and instead making a film that isn’t afraid to take its audience on a journey inside without providing a trail of breadcrumbs to lead them back out. “Moon” isn’t afraid to ask probing questions, but it leaves the answers up to you to determine. As such, it’s a true rarity in modern filmmaking—a movie that will mean something different to each individual viewer.

Comments
  1. princeconnoisseur says:

    Sounds extremely interesting and I will be sure to see it. Thanks.

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