Director: Duncan Jones | Runtime: 1h 37mins | Sci-Fi, Drama
In the last few weeks on a three year stint harvesting helium-3 alone, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) starts to break under the loneliness, going through a very person existential crisis, with his robot companion GERTY (Kevin Spacey) attempting to avoid complete disaster.
When the genre science fiction comes to mind, many think of large space battles and invading aliens, others consider condensed stories of humanity and technology. Taking cues from the latter, feature debut director Duncan Jones throws himself into the sci-fi category with an intelligent, emotional and though provoking piece.
In many ways Jones seems inspired by classics like Alien (1979) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which for some would cause issues of originality and innovation. In the case of Moon though, both flourish with abundance. Kevin Spacey’s GERTY resonates with the likes of HAL, but instead of the antagonist all he is programmed to do is help Sam, with delightfully humorous faces expressing his ‘feelings’. This, however, pales in comparison to Sam Rockwell’s performance. He has been given the chance to show his talents before, but never as much of a spotlight on such a leading role. Rockwell had to nail this throughout, even the slightest slip up in a single scene could have chipped the quality of the film – admirably he doesn’t miss a step.
The narrative has a few twists and turns that are best experienced first hand, and the story is difficult to talk about without spoiling those moments. It explores the nature of what it means to be human, and examining life, living and death. His recordings sent to and from his wife and daughter hammer home the loneliness of the mission, and also bring into question the kind of character Sam is – why would he leave his family for so long? Why are the missions so long, and why are they solo? These, and many other questions are raised and eventually answered.
Strikingly beautiful, inside the base really captures these themes throughout. They are a number of ways for Sam to keep himself entertained, but so much is left for GERTY to move and work, as well as the ways for Sam to communicate with the company he works for and the rigorous video documentation he has to record. During all this, the patience Jones and his editor Nicolas Gaster show is overshadowed, taking their time and carefully showing each scene at the right pace. Each cut feels like it should be there.
A brilliant debut by a director whose follow-ups don’t always resonate to the same quality and vision, Moon is certainly proof of Jones’ quality. A spectacular film that leaves you questioning how alive and just how real of a human you feel.