Directed by Duncan Jones and screenplay Nathan Parker based on Jones‘ original story, Moon tells the story of an astronaut who had been living in isolation for three years during a mining expedition on the moon. With his expedition about to end, he starts to become ill while dealing with strange occurrences at the moon. Starring Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey. Moon is a haunting yet exhilarating sci-fi drama from Duncan Jones and company.
Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is a miner who works on the far side of the moon. Alone with only a computer named Gerty (the voice of Kevin Spacey) to often confer to, Sam’s job is essential to look over the harvesting of helium extracts that provides energy to the Earth. With his three-year contract expiring and he’s to return home, Sam hopes to reunite with his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and their three-year old daughter Eve (Rosie Shaw). Though contact via life feed is limited, Sam is ready to go home until he starts to see strange visions including images of a mysterious woman (Kaya Scodelario) appearing. During a mining routine, he sees a strange figure standing where his rover crashed into a harvesting machine.
Sam later wakes up in an infirmary having little memory of what just happened as he hears Gerty talking to a couple of supervisors via satellite feed where he wants to go outside. Gerty refuses as Sam makes a plan to go outside claiming there’s something wrong as he finds a crashed rover with someone in there. Realizing it’s a guy that looks like Sam, he asks Gerty who he is. Gerty reveals it’s Sam Bell as the guy he’s talking to is also Sam Bell. With the injured Sam Bell from the rover feeling ill, the other Sam Bell looks younger but also more cynical as he believes something is going on.
The two Sams try to figure out what is going with Gerty reluctantly helping out and revealing some truths. With the younger Sam finding out about satellite feeds, the injured Sam finds a secret room. What the Sams discover isn’t just what’s in the room but also more secrets about what is going on as a rescue crew is coming to pick up one of them back to Earth as one of the Sams has an idea.
The film is a mystery set into a sci-fi atmosphere on the moon where a man discovers something about what is happening around him. Even as he sees a man who could be a younger version of him as they uncover the mystery of what is going on. What they find out is more to do with what the company Lunar Industries is trying to do with the computer named Gerty reluctantly helping out. That’s essentially the plot in a nutshell through Nathan Parker’s screenplay as it’s mostly a character study of how Sam Bell and his possible clone along with a computer named Gerty try to help him out.
The character of Sam Bell starts out as this normal guy who is excited to go home but is troubled by these weird visions he’s having. When he later meets his double, who is an angrier and cynical version of himself. He has a hard time trying to figure out who this guy is. Even worse is that is he wonders if this guy is actually the real person and he’s just the double. Yet, they would work together to find out what is happening. What they uncover isn’t just more startling but some answers that have them finding out who they are and what’s really going on.
The screenplay works in the mystery angle as well as the element of character study as director Duncan Jones plays up that element of suspense. Even as he sets into a sci-fi setting that is more reminiscent of the sci-fi films of the 1970s rather than what a mainstream audience now perceives about the genre. Setting it partially inside a space station on the moon, it plays as a set piece while many of the scenes outside of the station is a mixture of computer effects and handmade models to help create a futuristic look. Even as Jones is always capturing what is going on while making a robotic character like Gerty into a lively character who offers sympathy at times.
Jones’ direction is absolutely phenomenal in the way he slowly lets the mystery unfold that leads to a surprising third act that really changes the perspective of the film. Jones also uses tricks where he always have two-shots in which Sam Bell is talking to himself (the double is played by Robin Chalk). Jones’ framing of many of the scenes allows the audience to be invested in the journey of the two Sams trying to find out what is going on. The result is an outstanding debut for the young British filmmaker.
Cinematographer Gary Shaw does a phenomenal job with the film’s cinematography. While a lot of its shot inside the space station or in a rover with a few exterior shots. Shaw’s photography is very stylish to create a very sheer look while using different lights such as dark yellow and elements of dark lights to create moods for the film as the photography is a technical highlight of the film. Editor Nicolas Gaster does an excellent job with the editing in creating a methodical yet leisured pace to not only build up the suspense. Also in creating a mood where everything feels like time is slowing down while bringing some rhythmic cuts to some of the more action-driven scenes as Gaster’s editing is truly wonderful.
Production designer Tony Noble and art director Hideki Arichi do an amazing job with the set design for the film. Notably with the look of the space station along with the robot Gerty who has a screen where he display faces to conjure up his own emotions. Costume designer Jane Petrie does a very good job with the costumes from the creation of the space suit to the clothing that the Sams wear. Hair and makeup designer Karen Dawson does a great job with the look of Sam early in the film with his shaggy hair and beard along with the decayed look he would sport late in the film.
Visual effects supervisors Simon Kilroe, Gavin Rothery, and Simon Stanley-Clamp do a spectacular job with the visual effects for many of the film‘s exterior moon scenes. Notably in the look of the models that look very real to the flying space ships that come around throughout the film. Sound mixer Patrick Owen does some nice work with the sound in capturing the hollow, isolated world of the space station as it‘s also intimate and eerie in its presentation.
Music composer Clint Mansell does a wonderful job with the film’s soothing yet chilling score. Mansell brings a melancholia to his piano-laden score that plays to Sam’s own sense of isolation and longing. Even as Mansell also brings some broader pieces to play the suspenseful tone of the film as it’s another stellar score from Mansell. The rest of the film’s soundtrack includes pop songs from a cover of a Nik Kershaw song and a brief snippet of Katrina and the Waves 1980s hit Walking On Sunshine.
The casting by Manuel Puro and Jeremy Zimmerman do a great job with the casting as it’s mostly filled with a small ensemble in varied supporting roles. Among the small parts filled for the film include Benedict Wong and Matt Berry as corporate supervisors, Malcolm Stewart as a technician late in the film, Rosie Shaw as Sam’s daughter Eve, Kaya Scodelario as the mysterious woman who appears in Sam’s vision early in the film, and Dominique McElligott as Sam’s wife Tess who longs for his return.
In the voice of Gerty, Kevin Spacey does a superb job in bringing a humanistic quality to a machine as he reluctantly aids Sam in his quest to find secrets while providing sympathy to Sam’s own troubles. Sam Rockwell gives what is definitely his finest performance to date as Sam Bell. With help from Robin Chalk as his double, Rockwell brings layers to his role as a man who could be a double or an original as the two Sams try to uncover what is going on. Rockwell even allows himself to be funny and also angry for what his characters are going through. It’s a true tour-de-force performance from the always talented and exciting Sam Rockwell.
Moon is a dazzling yet intriguing sci-fi drama from Duncan Jones featuring a magnificent performance from Sam Rockwell. Fans of smart sci-fi films will no doubt enjoy this film for not just its technical presentation but also in its story and character study. Fans of Sam Rockwell will no doubt see this as one of his finest film performances of career while it is also an amazing debut film for Duncan Jones. In the end, Moon is a great film that makes audience realize what a sci-fi film should be and more.
© thevoid99 2011
Very good performance from Rockwell here and an amazing job of directing from Duncan Jones. I totally felt the alienation that Rockwell was feeling here, and those last 5 minutes really are amazing. Good Review As Always Steve!
Thank you Dan.
I finally saw it yesterday and if I had seen it when it came out that year. I would've made a campaign for Sam Rockwell to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He definitely got overlooked. I also loved the last five minutes. It was really intense. Now I'll need to see Source Code.
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