Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This little big movie has tiptoed into theatres as quietly as a moon landing hoax set in the Nevada desert. Chris had suggested we go see it, but apart from that I hadn’t even heard a word of it until two different friends trotted off to see it on the same day. As Chris unenthusiastically went with me to see Whip It a few weeks ago, I agreed to go with him to see Moon, directed and written by Duncan Jones. Jones is the son of David Bowie, a piece of information that I am somewhat reluctant to share because it has no real bearing on the film but I cannot deny my enthusiasm for a bit of non-salacious industry gossip.

Three years into his solitary posting on the moon as a mining company employee, Sam Bell is just a couple of weeks away from returning to Earth, and to his beloved wife Tess and young daughter Eve. His enthusiasm for this return is tempered only by the frustration he feels over the slow passing of time—and by the things he is beginning to see.

From the flash of a woman on the chair in the rec room to a figure he sees outside on the surface of the moon, he cannot believe what he sees, until a disastrous accident during the investigation of a malfunctioning harvester renders him unconscious—and then changes everything.

It’s hard to really explain much further without ruining the surprise, which actually occurs fairly early in the movie. The cast list is quite small, with, amongst not many others, Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell and Kevin Spacey voicing Sam's non-HAL robot companion, Gerty. Gerty is a chunky and cumbersome contraption who converses much like a human (or one of those finicky humans who likes to correct you, at least) and supplants this with a screen that shows his reactions through a series of emoticons. This may seem gimmicky but when, late into the movie, Gerty says something moving and his emoticon is a sad face with a tear, you actually feel quite emotionally connected to him. Gerty is full of surprises throughout the movie and I ended up coming home quite disappointed to find that the closest thing I had to a robot companion was a cat that had pooped in the bathtub and a pint-sized Wall-E that waves his arms around and says, “EE-VAH!”

Moon is a study in what we would become after three years alone in space, and what lengths the forces that sent you there would go to keeping you safe and happy and, most importantly, a functioning member of staff. It is also, in a way, the moving tale of a man and his enormous grey calculator. As Sam becomes more confused and frustrated with what is happening and it begins to dawn on him what is going to occur, it is a devastating moment for the audience when he drives out of the lunar base in his big grey Hummer and finds himself looking up at the full Earth. He starts to cry and wails, “I just want to go home!” and I swear if it was possible you’d jump through that screen to hold him if only you’d brought your spacesuit and didn’t have to worry about Total Recall head-explosions.

The exterior elements are not CG but are miniatures, little trucks rolling about on a little rocky set. To be honest, I’ve always preferred miniatures. CG has come a long way and on the whole looks fantastic, but I still think you can tell if something was really there, in front of the camera when it was recording. A set of three buildings and one truck on a grey landscape doesn’t take much but it looks perfectly spot-on, no doubt because so few of us have actually been there to say otherwise. The budget for this movie could have been tiny but it’s hard to tell, because Jones’ script is perfectly tuned and despite the limited characters and set options this movie is never boring and always compelling. Chris and I had an argument afterwards about whether humanity could reach the point where what happens in the movie could really occur—I say no, he says yes—so if you see it, I’d love to hear what you think. Do make the effort though; I think Moon is only showing in ye olde arthouse cinemas, but it deserves a general release, and I genuinely enjoyed it.

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