Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Moon

In the future, mankind has managed to shed its dependence on oil and gas.  Helium-3 harvested from the dark side of the moon supplies a majority of Earth's energy needs,  You might remember Helium-3 as being the reason astronauts landed on the moon in the movie Iron Sky, but this isn't going to get anywhere near as ridiculous.

Today, we're talking about the movie Moon, a movie I never knew existed until just recently, and one that I'm kicking myself for having never seen before.

Um, try not to get dizzy looking at that picture.

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut who works for Lunar Industries, the premiere agency harvesting Helium-3 on the moon.  He's alone up there (which we'll just accept as we're suspending disbelief anyway), save for the help of GERTY, an artificial intelligence played by Kevin Spacey.  Sam is two weeks away from being able to return home to see his wife and daughter.  He keeps himself busy by carving a model of his home town, tending to the base plants, and exercising daily.  He also goes out to the large mining vehicles, retrieves the collected Helium-3, and ships it back to Earth.

One day, Sam thinks he sees someone else in the base.  Videos start to flicker or skip while he watches the screens.  While driving to a loader he thinks he sees someone on the moon's surface, causing him to get into an accident.  He wakes back up in the infirmary, GERTY tending to him.

Pictured: Kevin Spacey's bedside manner.
Sam has no recollection of what happened.  GERTY is unusually silent.  Certain things around him don't add up and if you aren't hooked by this point, let me point out that it was written and directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie.

Moon is a treasure of a movie.  It takes things slow, letting tension and suspense build.  Partway through the movie we get an actual clock counting down to a big event, presenting us with a context for how long things take when we can't really rely on the position of the sun to tell us what time it is.  Sam Rockwell plays Sam extremely well, someone who has had plenty of time alone with just recorded messages from home and classic television to keep him company.  Oh, and he has GERTY.  GERTY is, after all, there to help.

The movie is extremely evocative of the movie 2001, and if you're going to have someone be inspired by Stanley Kubrick, I can't tell if the offspring of David Bowie is the perfect person for that to be or the most unlikely person for that to be.  The hallways of the moon base have the same cold, sterile feeling as the station from 2001, and Kevin Spacey's inflections are very HAL-esque, if with a bit more personality and programmed sincerity.

What does this movie have to do with Halloween?  Well, remember what I said before about the fear of being alone?  I know many people would be hesitant to travel into space with a limited number of people around them, but I personally can't even imagine being alone for three years so far away from anybody I know, regardless of whether Kevin Spacey's voice was there.  To me, that tension and sympathy I had for Sam tapped deep into that fear, and at certain points I found myself actually feeling afraid of nothing more than long empty hallways and the barren surface of our biggest satellite.

Jump scares aren't the only kinds of scares out there, people.  The best scares get in your head, set up shop, get comfy, and stick around for a while.

Sam Rockwell is a skilled enough actor to carry this movie, and Kevin Spacey's voice cutting in at key moments always has you pausing and wondering whether the computer intelligence is actually on Sam's side or not, or whether he has his own goals separate from anything else.  The moon itself is shown wonderfully and hammers home the sense of just how alone Sam is out there.

Watching Moon, you feel how lonely Sam is, and how desperate he is for the chance to get back home.  You see him touch the screen when a recorded message of his wife plays, and you realize that while he is certainly lonely, even just the most basic touch of another human would mean so much to him.  Being that alone can do things to a guy, make him start to question what's actually around him.

But if I say any more, I'll have said too much.

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