Monday, 9 November 2009

Moon (Very minor spoiler alert)

I finally saw "Moon", quiet Sci-Fi from the more appropriately named Duncan Jones starring Sam Rockwell. Sam Rockwell who I believe is a decidedly underrated actor.

Actually, it's more like Science Future than Science Fiction. It portrays a not too distant nor too unbelievable future whereby man is present on the moon and mining it for Helium-3, a fuel required to provide clean and a pretty much inexhaustible source of energy to the earth.

A lonely job but someone has go to do it; a human presence is required to oversee the mining station and that presence is Sam Bell. Bell is assigned to a three year contract on the Moon Base with only an AI computer system called Gerty for company.

We come into the canon of Sam Bell at the point of 2 weeks until his 3 years are up and establish that Satellite Communications have been damaged and he has been unable to receive any live feed messages from earth for some time but rather pre-recorded messages received periodically. Through this we also discover that Sam Bell has a wife called Tess and a 3 year old daughter back home on earth.

Three years isolated in the silence of space have clearly taken their toll and there are already hints of slight barminess fringing Sam, just around the edges.

When Sam begins to hallucinate you would be forgiven for thinking that you were about to embark on a mans descent into madness brought on through intense solitude but this isn't the case.

During a routine mission to one of the harvesters Sam sees a young girl standing on the Moon's surface and understandably crashes his rover. He wakes up in the base infirmary, relatively in-tact and being cared for by Gerty.

At this point I should probably mention a few things about Gerty. Voiced by Kevin Spacey, he's sort of like a roving microwave with a couple of pretty sophisticated arm mechanisms that are operated by him but move around separately, if you can imagine. He also has a little monitor that projects Emoticons (or smileys) to convey what he is feeling, a touch I really liked. There are echoes of Hal, naturally, from 2001 but fortunately Gerty lacks the homicidal maniac chip as his AI is in fact not that sophisticated.

What happens next turns your expectations of the movie; during his recovery process Sam overhears Gerty having a live conversation with the Bosses back on earth, cue suspicions. Suspicion leads him to disobey orders of confinement and ventures out to investigate the crashed rover where he finds, well, himself still there and barely alive. As you would, he takes himself back to the base for treatment.

That's right, you guessed it, there's more than one Sam Bell. In fact there's a fairly limitless amount of Sam Bell's being stored under the base.

Sam Bell is a human product; there are hundreds, maybe thousands of clones ready to replace the current live version as it comes to the end of it's three year contract. Without giving too much away about the ending we end up with two Sam Bell's interacting and leading the movie to its conclusion, one that that has been there for three years and is getting sicker (and more gross!) by the second and the newly awakened post-crash Sam.

There is some nice contrast seen between a Sam Bell who has spent three years in crushing isolation and subsequently gone round the bend and a a newer model who is altogether a grumpier and less sympathetic version. Their scenes together are well done but once or twice are let down by their lack of impact, by that I mean the conveyance of general annoyance at each other as opposed to any real turmoil or emotion you would anticipate from the discovery of a clone of yourself.

The inspirations are apparent and well applied; A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Silent Running, Darkstar and even a few specks of Sunshine.

It's an excellent Sci-Fi contribution from Duncan Jones; dark, brooding and thankfully there is no naff twist.

Its evocations of loneliness and the importance of human connection are touching and I think it makes an interesting comment on identity and how that is valued in society.

It definitely merits another watch.

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