Moon (***½)

Posted on September 13th, 2009 in Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
Hello, It's Me

Hello, It's Me

If you think you might end up going to see Moon, I strongly suggest that you stop reading this (and all) review(s) and just go see it.  Really, you don’t want to know what happens before you see it.  Trust me.

However, I read reviews all the time for movies I’m planning to see, because how else is one to figure out which movies to see, particularly if you don’t have time to see as many of them as you would like?  So, for the benefit of those of you who are trying to figure out if you might like Moon, the following paragraph (and *only* the following paragraph) will represent my attempt at a spoiler-free review/guide.  Remember, the paragraph after this next one will start to reveal plot, so only read this next paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet.

First of all, if you are looking for some light, late-summer fare to while away an evening with mindless entertainment, this isn’t it.  This movie is very challenging, the storyline is purposely confusing, the scope of the story is very small, and the ending is…well…not a typical Hollywood ending.  To give away a little of the flavor of the movie, it is set in the reasonably near future, and, as you may have guessed from the title, it has something to do with the Moon.  This is not a space opera (like Star Wars), it isn’t an breathtaking allegory of the ascent of man (like 2001: A Space Odyssey), and there aren’t any aliens (like Aliens).  All of the technology in this film is easily extrapolated by taking current technology and extrapolating it forward to the time the film is set.  And although the special effects are stunningly well-done, this is a movie based on the character(s) and their interactions with each other, and themselves, and the effects merely serve as just that…effects, not as the story itself.  And the story is incredibly well-done – well-written, well-acted, well-filmed, and well-directed.  So, if you can enjoy serious, small-scale character films that are well-done, and also just happen to be set in the future and off the planet Earth, this might be the film for you.

There, that concludes the generic review/recommendation, such as it is.  I know it contains some nuggets of information, but it couldn’t be helped – and, anyway, if you didn’t want to know about this movie you wouldn’t be reading this in the first place.

So, on to the more detailed review, which will also reveal the plot.

Again, please don’t read any further unless you want spoilers.

Not kidding now, here we go.

One last chance for you to go back.

Okay, if you’re still here, Moon stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, the lone worker at a helium mining facility located on the far side of the Moon.  He has signed up for a three year contract to work there alone, with only a talking computer called GERTY (voice by Kevin Spacey) as his only day-to-day companion.  When the story begins, Sam is nearing the end of his three year contract and is getting ready to head back to Earth, and to the wife he loves and misses and to the daughter he has never met.

It’s also made clear that the satellite that is normally used for real-time communications back to Earth is malfunctioning, so Sam doesn’t have any interaction with other humans in real-time, only via taped messages which are bounced off of Jupiter and so take quite a while to send and receive, leaving Sam in a sort of limbo-like state.

But, all that is about to end with the completion of his contract.  He shaves his scraggly beard and cuts his scraggly hair, he puts the finishing touches on some of his office crafts, and sends delayed messages of love and longing to his wife, who responds with messages of love and confusion.

But Sam is also beginning to lose it, mentally.  He’s seeing visions and making mistakes, and he eventually crashes his rover when he’s out on the planet surface checking on a mining robot.  But we see him wake up in the infirmary, looking none the worse for wear, and he can’t remember his accident, recovery, or recuperation.  In fact, Sam is so confused by his recent past that he slips away and finds the wrecked rover, and in it he finds the still-living body of Sam Bell.  He, and we, are confused by this, and Sam is feeling mentally unstable enough that he’s not sure he’s seeing what he’s seeing, either.

What is revealed through the story is that Sam(s) is(are) part of a chain of clones, each with a functional lifespan of about three years, after which they start to break down mentally and physically.  It turns out that their employer/owner/creator/master has stocked the outpost with a large supply of Sam clones, each waiting to be awakened by GERTY when the previous one gets into the chamber that they think will prepare them to return to Earth, but which really just cremates their failing bodies.

The two Sams exist in a strange existence – one fresh-faced, healthy, robust, and naive – the other wizened and decaying – and they don’t exactly hit it off.  For example, to whom to the slippers belong?  Whose wife is sending them video messages?  Who is the father of their daughter?  What can they do now? 

The good news is that they at least understand their plight, the bad news is that a “rescue” ship is headed their way, and these “rescuers” certainly aren’t going to let two Sam clones live when they know about each other, and about the other clones waiting in stasis.

At this point I’ll leave the storyline for you to discover, but it unfolds in very interesting ways.  And Sam Rockwell does a Oscar-nom-worthy job of portraying the two stages of Sam.  Note that this film is basically a one-man show, albeit with that one person playing two copies of himself.  There are other characters, but none of them are presented live, only via tape delay, memory, dreams, or hallucinations.

Moon is the kind of movie that, in my mind, should get a wide release and put a lot of butts in the seats.  However, Hollywood has decided that movie-goers don’t really want to think, and so continue to shovel crapload after crapload of dreck for our mindless entertainment.  And I’m all for mindless entertainment, some of the time, but I think Hollywood is missing the opportunity of mixing up the menu a little bit, and putting some more exotic fare out there for us to nibble on.

And that’s what Moon is, something exotic and strange, and it frankly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re the kind of person who, when they hear that a film is character study clones in the near future on a base on the far side of the moon, think it could be an interesting trip, then Moon is probably for you.

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