Saturday, October 12, 2013


In anticipation of Gravity's release (and because I've been meaning to see it for a while now) I decided to watch and review 2009's Moon. This is one of the rare times when a movie completely escaped my notice until it was already a couple of years past its theatrical release. Directed by Duncan Jones (who later directed the terrific Source Code in 2011), Moon actually first became known to me by listening to Pandora. I'm a big fan of film scores and several songs from this soundtrack kept playing on some of my composer channels. After listening to those songs, I decided to buy the entire album. It's been on fairly heavy rotation on my iPod ever since, and I feel my viewing of this film has a similar story. Though I was initially held up by the R-rating of this film, I decided (as it was merely for language) that I could handle the content and proceeded anyway.

Moon tells the story of Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), an engineer on the lunar space station in charge of harvesting a mineral on the Moon's surface that is an incredibly efficient energy source. Contracted for a three year mission, Sam struggles with the communication malfunctions the station routinely encounters and longs for the remaining two weeks of his contract to go swiftly. He has left his wife and newborn daughter on earth and the extended isolation, apart from a robotic assistant named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), has caused Sam to hallucinate. One day on his rounds to repair the equipment, a vision of a young woman sends his lunar vehicle crashing into the harvesting equipment. He wakes up some time later in the infirmary without a single wound or memory from the accident. Though Sam wishes to explore the moon surface to see how he ended up in the infirmary, GERTY says it is temporarily out of bounds. He finds a way around that and drives a second vehicle up to the crash site... only to find another astronaut in the wreckage. Sam brings the man back to base and is shocked to see that the stranger looks identical to him...

As I have listened to the score quite frequently before even seeing the film, the song titles gave a way a few things about the plot (though I could have surmised as much just by watching the trailer). This is a fairly complex narrative, and the plot twists, while interesting, are not the most compelling thing about this independent sci-fi thriller. Sam Rockwell (from Iron Man 2) does a tremendous job portraying more than one character, and at times you even forget that it is the same person. His struggle to uncover the mystery surrounding the lunar base with the other Sam Bell is fascinating to watch as he bickers back and forth with himself. But even that pales in comparison to the emotional story of Sam's separation from his family.

The visuals for this movie are fairly well done (given the limited budget and means of the production), and the space station is exceptionally constructed. These aren't the reasons to see this movie, but it helps the viewer believe in the heightened reality of this universe. As you can probably guess, the thing that puts this movie over the edge is the score. It's a beautiful, haunting piece that I highly recommend to any fan of film music. Just listen to the heart-breaking "Memories" on iTunes if you don't believe me.

I wish I could talk about this movie in more depth, but I don't want to ruin the experience for anybody that hasn't seen it yet. This is a terrifically-written story and inspired many sci-fi films to come (ahem, Oblivion). Though the language does get a little harsh at times and the ending may be construed as slightly underwhelming (despite the last-second intrigue captured in voice-over), I highly recommend this movie to any fans of the science fiction genre. I give this film a very strong three and a half stars.

MOON is rated R for language