MOON - A SPOILER-FREE, BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
MOON dropped last year and was an exclusive fanboy favorite for those “in the know” and those lucky enough to catch a screening. For those that weren’t so lucky, it is now on DVD for the consumption of the masses. This movie is a hard lesson on cynicism at the corporate level with a realistic, painfully human core. The story will grip you, but the slower pace of the film might alienate a lot of the film’s potential audience.
However the thoughtful, time-consuming pace of MOON actually helps cement its foot into the classic 60s and 70s sci-fi mold. Long, quiet moments in classic science fiction movies like SILENT RUNNING, 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, and television’s SPACE 1999 have always hinted at the spirit-breaking loneliness that people at remote space stations might experience.
MOON’s sets have that sterile white, traditional futuristic feel. The film is definitely lower-budget, but don’t let that distract you. MOON uses its claustrophobic sets to its advantage and tricks them out. Fuzzy dice even hang in the cockpit of one of the moon rovers. And Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of a miner on the moon named Sam Bell is nothing short of astonishing.
Those that are familiar with his work might think Rockwell would be out of his range with this role as a completely spiritually lost man on the moon. The two roles that he has done that stick out the most are his starring roles in CHOKE and as Chuck Barris in CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND. He does sleazy quirkiness convincingly, so well, in fact, that when he really starts to act in MOON, one can’t help but notice his evolution as an actor. He takes on a heavy, heavy load in this film and gets to present his character in varying levels of stress, managing to deliver a performance with different, complicated facets that all spring from the core of this Sam Bell character he is playing.
This film is set in a future in which all of the energy issues are solved by a product known as Helium-3, an energy source that is harvested on the moon. Sam Bell has signed on for a three-year shift on the dark side of the moon. His job is to monitor the harvesting process and send small courier ships back to Earth with the Helium-3 payload.
It is apparent immediately that there is something wrong with Sam. He eats his breakfast beans served in clear plastic packets and drinks his coffee, but he has stomach problems. Physically he looks sickly and off. Psychologically he is getting a bit frayed around the edges and is starting to hallucinate and talk to himself.
Still Sam continues to maintain the ominous, moon-dust spitting Helium-3 harvesters named Matthew, Mark and Luke. He only has two weeks left of this gig, and then he can get back to his wife and daughter on Earth. The information that Sam receives from his wife and from Lunar Industries’ corporate desk are all recordings. Sam is the only human on the moon at a base known as the “Sarang.” Adding to the stress is the lack of live contact with Earth. The live link has been on the fritz for as long as Sam has been on the moon.
Maintaining a level of sterile sanity in this film is the voice of Kevin Spacey for “Gerty.” Gerty watches over Sam like some sort of strange mechanical angel while monitoring the Helium-3 harvesting. Unlike 2001’s HAL, Gerty is genuinely concerned for Sam‘s welfare. Flashing various emoticons across its screen in order to convey its frame of mind, this robot negotiates the position of complex caregiver and small-talk companion. Gerty also knows about the inhumane corporate practices Lunar Industries employs to keep the moon base operable. Sam just needs to ask the right questions. Gerty, while definitely on Sam’s side, cites limited knowledge on what goes on outside of the base.
The movie turns when Sam wrecks his moon rover and wakes up in the infirmary under Gerty’s care. The wreck takes its toll on him, but the undefined sickness that Sam has been experiencing produces symptoms far worse than those caused by the slight rover accident. There are numerous scenes in which Sam spits blood, and for some reason his teeth are falling out. During this time we also see Sam in what seems to be top physical condition. Sam is both broken and fresh. As we learn more and more about Sam’s predicament, he does too.
MOON manages to show how much the corporation’s greed and focus on the bottom line play into the way it treats its employees. When Sam realizes exactly how expendable he really is, the revelation is akin to a nightmare that he can’t wake up from. Gerty manages to keep a level head in all of this, consoling Sam and ultimately explaining to him who he is and how he really fits into Lunar Industries’ moon-mining plan.
Paranoia mounts as Sam tries to find a way to contact Earth. When he learns that his signals are being deliberately jammed, he doubles his efforts. What Sam finds out directly before making his Earth contact and how he solves his numerous problems all make for some brilliant, heartbreaking storytelling. Sam has found himself in the center of a personal hell that his employers at Lunar Industries deliberately dropped him into. There is also a repair crew that is on their way, but these guys look more like a scruffy hit-squad than mechanics.
MOON is mostly about lost connections. It is also about the human urge to make such connections while being stymied by greedy men playing God. This film has captured the Zeitgeist of today, angst concerning the amorality of powerful corporations. The value of human life and how it could be completely discounted is also explored to a horrific, cynical conclusion. There is a shred of hope however, and the shred of hope saves this film from becoming the biggest bummer you will ever experience. The third act lags almost a half-hour too long, but MOON manages to leave its viewers with several dark and wonderful concepts to process.