Man’s dark side comes to light beautifully in ‘Moon’

August 16, 2012

I recently rewatched Duncan Jones’ Moon on DVD. If you have any interest in science fiction, or even if you’re an aficionado of intelligent and offbeat films, you should definitely see this if you have not yet already done so.

The 2009 movie stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, an astronaut who is finishing a three-year solo stint at an energy mining base on the far side of the moon. Because of an equipment glitch, Sam communicates with his employer and his wife and baby on Earth by exchanging one-way video messages; his only company is a sympathetic robot called Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

The isolation is clearly wearing on Sam, and strange things start happening in and around the base. Help is available for him — but dark discoveries are at hand as well.

I won’t spoil any twists for those who haven’t yet watched Moon. Suffice to say that Rockwell, writer-director Jones and co-writer Nathan Parker probe multiple sides of Bell’s psychology in masterful fashion. The plot involves a neat puzzle that unspools naturally; the moon base set and the exterior special effects are for the most part executed beautifully; and Clint Mansell provides a quirky, moving score.

But it all hangs together because Rockwell and the director and writers have such a firm handle on the man at the heart of the story.

I do have a few quibbles with the film. There are some visual continuity mismatches with Gerty, and there are inconsistent physics in the picture. To wit, lunar gravity appears to be in effect for an astronaut walking on the moon’s surface, but otherwise objects act as if they are subject to Earth’s much stronger downward pull. Simulating low gravity, of course, would have involved significant difficulty and expense, and since the key to this film is psychology, not physics, I’ll gladly give Moon a pass on this point.

Summarizing: Moon is a terrific movie. See it.

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