KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the new sci-fi film Moon, directed by David Bowie's son Duncan Jones.
Related Story: Moon
KPBS FM Film Review: Moon
By Beth Accomando
Air Date: June 18, 2009
Moon has been generating a lot of buzz. First, it's the feature-directing debut of David Bowie's son. Second, NASA asked to screen the sci-fi film because like the film the organization is interested in mining Helium 3 on the moon. And finally, it showcases actor Sam Rockwell in a dual role. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this review.
MOON(ba).wav SOQ: 3:55
(Tag:) Moon opens June 19 at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas. You can find more of Beth's reviews online at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie.
CLIP TV spot for Lunar Industries
"There was a time when energy was a dirty word. But that was the past. Right now we are the largest producer of fusion energy in the world. The energy of the sun trapped in rock, harvested by machine on the far side of the moon."
But harvesting Helium 3 on the dark side of the moon also requires a human being, and that person better be prepared for a long lonely gig far from home.
CLIP Sam: 8:32 Pacific time, all harvesters running smoothly. Read outs are as follows…
Sam Bell has been on the moon for nearly three years. He misses his family, the isolation is wearing on him, and his only companion is a HAL-like computer named GERTY.
CLIP GERTY: Sam it might help you to talk about it.
Sam: GERTY have you heard anything new about anyone fixing Lunar-sep?
GERTY: No I understand it's low on the company's priority list right now.
Sam: You tell them to sort that out, I've only got two weeks but it's not fair to whoever is coming up here next.
But these two weeks feel like forever, especially since live communication with earth is down. All Sam can do is send and receive pre-recorded messages, like this one from his wife.
CLIP Tess: Hi Sam it's me. I got your last message…
But while he's watching his wife’s message, he notices a glitch or maybe it's an edit. But why would the company censor a personal message? This is just the first sign that things might not be exactly what they seem. Then Sam gets in an accident and when he wakes up he thinks he sees someone who looks just like him.
CLIP GERTY: Perhaps you're imagining things.
Sam: What's going on, where did he come from, why does he look like me?
Moon feels like a throwback to 70s sci-fi because it returns the focus to how technology impacts human life. It also returns the genre to more overt social commentary. This is not sci-fi action like the upcoming Transformers 2. Instead it's a more contemplative genre piece like 1972’s Silent Running. Moon, like Silent Running, presents us with a character that's essentially a blue collar worker at the mercy of a cold and callous corporation.
CLIP Lunar Industries remains number one due to the hard work of people like you.
Director Duncan Jones also taps into the visual style of Silent Running, which was directed by special effects wizard Douglas Trumball. Taking his cue from Truball, Jones creates a vivid but far from perfect futuristic world. Stylistically, the emphasis is on small details rather than big effects and blowing things up. And like Trumball, Jones is as interested in technology as he is in questions of humanity and philosophy. Moon asks us to consider how far we'd like to go in order to serve the needs of the many. What sacrifices to our humanity are we willing to make? But Jones poses these questions within an entertaining story that’s both tense and funny.
A key to the film's success is Sam Rockwell who plays multiple roles and is asked to carry the film. Rockwell is an unconventional actor and he's always compelling and amusing. He's not an action hero or a typical leading man. But he finds fresh ways to come at his character so he's always fun to watch. Plus he gets to play off of Kevin Spacey as the smiley faced super-computer.
CLIP GERTY: Do you want me to cut your hair?
Moon is one of the more thoughtful sci-fi film of the past decade. It's flawed and still feels long at 97 minutes, but it's also smart and innovative. It may sound familiar but it manages to pull some clever twists as it asks you to think about the kind of future you want to have. Jones in his first feature outing manages to deliver a provocative and speculative sci-fi drama; a paranoid thriller that builds tension effectively; and a bittersweet tale about holding on to one’s humanity.
For KPBS, I'm Beth Accomando.