For three years, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has been alone on the moon - except for the artificially intelligent Gerty robot/computer (voice of Kevin Spacey) at a base harvesting Helium 3 for Lunar, a company that claims it holds the key to solving humankind's energy crisis. As Sam's contract comes to an end, the lonely astronaut looks forward to returning to his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and daughter Eve (Kaya Scodelario). With only two weeks to go before he returns to Earth, Sam starts feeling strange: he's having inexplicable visions, and hearing impossible sounds. Then, when a routine extraction goes horribly awry, it becomes apparent that Lunar hasn't been at all honest with Sam.
Review by Louise Keller:
An interesting idea goes astray in this unusual sci-fi thriller in which Sam Rockwell's astronaut Sam becomes captive in the recesses of his own mind. English director Duncan Jones' concept takes us into a reality in which the gritty dark side of the moon is our backyard. Solitude is our only companion. At times fascinating and at other times tedious, the film disintegrates before we are able to see where it is going. As a consequence, Moon is a bit of a blot, despite Rockwell's enigmatic presence.
When we first meet Rockwell's Sam, we see a man running on a treadmill. Nothing unusual about that, except that we quickly discover he is on a lunar space-station and is alone - apart from a spookily considerate talking Robotic assistant with an ever-changing smiley faced robotic assistant called Gerty (ambiguously voiced by Kevin Spacey). His three year assignment is nearly up and Big Brother (the good guy in the world's energy stakes) is always watching him. Sam talks to himself as well as to Gerty and the plants he has been nurturing but which are nonetheless slowly dying. He spends his time recording messages to his beautiful wife Tess (Dominique McElligott), carves miniature figures and watches re-runs of Bewitched. Oh, should it be that easy to twitch his nose in order to be back on Earth in the arms of the woman he loves.
Then there is an accident. Sam has headaches, hallucinations and he is confused and concussed. Is there a conspiracy? Is there a secret room? What is real and what is imagined? Jones takes us from the starkness of the space-station interior to the bleak, graininess of the lunar surface, where the energy-propelling harvesters are constantly at work. Even if we are able to leap as high as Jones demands, the film's reality cannot be suspended and like a pricked balloon, we can only feel disappointment.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The filmmakers say they wanted to make a sci-fi story within their limited budget, so used ingredients that would satisfy both. Sadly, the screenplay is a bit low on other things as well, like meaningful content. We do get a whiff of corporate greed from the very start, and the resolution paints Lunar as evil to boot, but it's not enough to sustain such a sparse story. There are glimpses, too, of an intriguing fiction in which energy is mined from the stones on the moon which have retained it from their exposure to the sun. But again, these snatches of grounding matter as thin and sparse.
The film has a tenuous hold on our attention, thanks largely to Sam Rockwell's visceral performance; first his isolation, later his anguish and finally his courage all help to make his character interesting and engaging. The filmmaking tricks are mostly well done, but the incomplete scenario and the almost total absence of characters who generate the dramatic tension makes the director's task very difficult.
By any standard measure, Moon is a sci-fi minnow, and even its occasional references to the genre don't give it the lift-off it needs.
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CAST: Sam Rockwell, Robin Chalk, Matt Berry, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario, Malcolm Stewart, Benedict Wong
VOICES: Kevin Spacey
PRODUCER: Stuart Fenegan, Trudie Styler
DIRECTOR: Duncan Jones
SCRIPT: Nathan Parker (story by Duncan Jones)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gary Shaw
EDITOR: Nicolas Gaster
MUSIC: Clint Mansell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Noble
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 3, 2009
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.