Movie #40 2021: Moon (2009)

I know what you’re thinking. “Not another average movie about a lone male being trapped in outer space and slowly becoming mentally unhinged!” I mean, that’s not an entirely incorrect summary of the plot here, but I would argue that this is one of the better ones.

Moon marks the debut directorial feature from director Duncan Jones (yes, as in David Bowie’s son, but that’s irrelevant.) Starring Sam Rockwell in the lead role with a very, very small supporting cast, it’s the story of – you guessed it – a singular man on the moon, who is slowly but surely losing his mind. Rockwell’s Sam Bell is an astronaut who has been sent on a lone mission to our only natural satellite for three years as part of Lunar Industries’ (I assume that’s a fictional branch of NASA in a way) space programme. His mission? To oversee the harvesting of the moon’s ‘soil’ in order to excavate a new fuel for Earth, which is going through an oil crisis. As he comes to the end of his mission, he notices some strange goings-on and he begins suspect his mission has not been all as it seemed.

I have to begin by congratulating Duncan Jones on this. For a debut especially, this is a really, really positive sign that he’s destined for greatness in filmmaking in the near future. (He has also directed movies like Source Code and others, in case you were wondering.) Based on this effort, I’d say there are definite positive signs that his rumoured new movie based on the British science-fiction comic 2000 AD will be pretty good.

Having only 5% of the budget that Gravity would boast a few years later, I was under the impression that Moon would just look like a cheap, less polished version of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 Oscar winner, but I was completely wrong. The sets and the props look almost retro in nature, but somehow still completely realistic. Whilst I enjoyed GravityMoon felt more textile and interesting as both a landscape and a narrative in general.

Sam Rockwell comes with the exact right amount of charisma here, as you’d expect. There are very few other actors that I can imagine playing this part so successfully, and the fact he was mostly snubbed during awards season for this baffles me. His performance is focused, dynamic, and multi-faceted. Not only does he play the deeply emotional scenes with a tender vulnerability, but he fits those goofy, comedic sequences like a glove too. #Justice4Rockwell is what I say.

Going is blind is probably for the best, as part of the fun here is not knowing what the hell is going on. Did I expect the plot to go all Orphan Black on me? Nope. And I loved it. (It’s at this point where I can’t divulge any other details without going full on spoilerific, so we’ll leave it at that.)

Most surprisingly, this film ended up being thematically centred on so many things that you wouldn’t expect. Rather than it being about the moon or space in any way, what you get are themes of self-awareness, human emotion, artificial intelligence, and the ethics of science. Much more interesting than attempting some sort of 2001: A Space Odyssey knock off. 

I probably won’t think about Moon very much again, but it’s a superbly made and beautifully performed 90 minute film that has very little wrong with it. Duncan Jones is certainly one to watch.

Moon is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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