Sam Rockwell times two in Moon

Moon

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

 

13 November

Nasa finds “significant” water on the Moon, 2009

On this day in 2009, Nasa reported that it had found “significant” amounts of water on the Moon. The word “significant” is significant, since scientists had already discovered water on the Moon, but it seemed to be locked in mineral grains – so-called magmatic water, which comes from deep within the Moon’s interior. The 13 November announcement reported the findings of an experiment which crashed a 2,200kg rocket stage, followed by a probe containing a near-infrared spectrometer, into a crater at the Moon’s south pole, where it was hoped ice would be kicked up. This is exactly what happened, but it was the amount of water vapour and ice that scientists saw that surprised them – “a dozen two-gallon buckets”. Anthony Colprete, Nasa’s chief scientist for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission elaborated – “We didn’t just find a little bit; we found a significant amount”. It’s an important find because the water can act as a resource for future astronauts, providing drinking water, breathable air (once it’s been broken down) and the components oxygen and hydrogen – “potent rocket fuel”, as Mike Wargo, Nasa’s chief lunar scientist for exploration systems described it.

 

 

Moon (2009, dir: Duncan Jones)

People these days rarely mention that Duncan Jones is David Bowie’s son. When Moon came out Jones, largely an unknown quantity, seemed to be perilously close to treading in dad’s footprints – Bowie’s breakthrough song Space Oddity being all about an isolated spaceman singing about how distant Earth looks and how helpless he feels – “planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do”. Moon, too, is about an isolated spaceman, played by Sam Rockwell, whose long lonely stint on a moonbase is about to come to an end, so he thinks, when a freak accident wakes from the chiller a Sam clone that the original Sam knew nothing about. But is Original Sam even the original Sam? Into this fascinating, twist-driven plot is added the “character” of Sam’s only companion up there, an affectless computer, voiced with full cognisance of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL by Kevin Spacey – in space no one can hear you sneer. The reason why the “he’s Bowie’s son” mentions stopped very shortly after Moon came out is because it’s so good, achieves so much with so little. Jones had clearly watched the Clooney/Soderbergh Solaris and thought “nah, I could do better than that.” And he has – Moon is a lean and sleek piece of elemental, cerebral sci-fi that wears its 2001 looks on its sleeve. And let’s not forget the often slightly underrated Stockwell, who brilliantly differentiates between the different Sams by offering us different grades of human box-freshness (OK, the beard helps too). Like the film itself, beautifully, elegantly done.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • A two-hander sci-fi, one of the hands being just a voice
  • A sci-fi movie loved by sci-fi writers
  • The Bowie-Eno-esque soundtrack by Clint Mansell, formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself
  • Futuristic sci-fi for retro sci-fi fans

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Moon – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Moon”

  1. While book racks are brimming with thought provoking, high concept science fiction, the movie genre tends to be populated by invading aliens, intergalactic wars, and adventure, which makes Director and co-writer Duncan Jones' Moon that much more of an oddity.

    Not since Steven Soderbergh's much overlooked 2002 rendition of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris has a movie firmly rooted in the sci-fi realm delivered reflections on the human condition, which Moon does deftly.

    It tells the story of Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only inhabitant of an automated lunar mining base extracting Helium-3 from lunar rocks to be shipped back to Earth to fuel the energy starved planet.

    Sam's isolated three year posting is about to come to an end and he longs to return to Earth to see his wife. His only company throughout this sojourn has been that of Gerty, the base's HAL-like robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. Unfortunately, the final weeks and days are proving to be the most difficult, and Sam finds himself going a bit squirrelly, leaving both he and the audience to wonder if what's unfolding is actually happening, or merely a drama taking place in his addled mind.

    That's about as much plot detail as I'm going to deliver, for to delve any deeper into the story would give too much away. Be prepared, however, for a thought provoking narrative that touches on issues such as scientific ethics, corporate greed, human identity, and compassion.

    There are no aliens, lasers/phasers, wormholes, warp engines or jump drives here, just a lonely space age concierge, an unflappable monotone robot, and a whole lot of fodder for your brain to chow down on.

    This is what science fiction was meant to be.

  2. Go see this movie! I've been lucky enough to have an opportunity to see this movie down here at SXSW and I am the better for it.

    You don't really stumble upon many riveting, independent, sci-fi films that look beautiful(let alone don't contain aliens and space magic) and capture major emotional themes successfully. Moon accomplishes this, and with very little CGI at that.

    Sam Bell is an astronaut working for a corporation on the far side of the moon. His job? Maintaining a lunar facility and the automated machines which are harvesting the moon's surface for Helium 3. The harvested material is then sent back to Earth to use as energy.

    Sam is on the very last leg of a three year contract and is quite anxious to return to his wife and daughter. Barring any incidents, Sam will be able to leave his solitude. But something does go wrong.

    That said, tremendous acting by Sam Rockwell carries this film – mainly because he is basically the only person in the movie. I'm not talking about Cast Away meets the moon… This film explores loneliness much deeper than that, and with much more emotion as well. Luckily for us there are no pieces of sports equipment on which the lead dotes, but instead we're blessed with a monotonous talking robot(voiced by Kevin Spacey) reminiscent of Hal from 2001 notoriety.

    I advise that people go see this film, not only to support Duncan, the director, and Sam, but also to explore to possibilities of space and the humanity of loneliness.

    Don't go in expecting to find what I have discussed, but go in expecting to find something inside yourself.

  3. In short, this is one of the best sci-fi movies I have seen in a LONG time. Sam Rockwell plays it perfect, making the viewer feel his isolation and lonelieness. For a low budget film, the few effect shots work seamlessly. I'm trying to remain spoiler free, so I won't bother to explain the plot. If you like older and more story/character driven sci-fi, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, than chances are you will love this movie. If you aren't a huge fan of sci-fi, take a chance with this one. You may find it a very rewarding experience. I loved this movie, and I can't stop thinking about it. In Moon, you may begin to think that everything is a big cliché, but than with all of the seemingly cliché plot points, Moon changes them into something entirely original and unexpected. It is an excellent piece of art and I have a strong feeling not enough people will see and appreciate it like I did.

  4. I attended a screening of “Moon” at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival in the legendary Paramount Theatre. There wasn’t an empty seat in the 1300-capacity palace. Directed by Duncan Jones, “Moon” stars Sam Rockwell, one of our generation’s most powerful actors. The notion of a film being unique seems unlikely in 2009. Not here. While “Moon” is a modern-day science fiction film set in the future, it pays homage to recent classics like “Blade Runner” and “Alien.” Viewers will be dazzled — fans of the genre will nod in approval. Science has developed a way to mine the rocks of the moon for clean energy here on earth. Private enterprise, in the form of a corporation, sends astronauts on a three-year work stint to carry out this ongoing mission. Sam Bell (Rockwell) is the latest to undertake this task, with the trusted robot GERTY by his side watching over the base’s operations — think HAL with a heart. Of course, things are not what they seem, and the viewer is mesmerized as puzzling and surprising events unfold. Cinematographer Gary Shaw contributes to the impression of the eerie stillness of life on the moon with the copious use of still camera and slow tracking shots, only using hand-held when necessary. Nicolas Gaster’s editing is sure and steady, emphasizing the slow pace of Sam Bell’s multi-year work assignment. Remember those pre-CGI days when special effects meant miniature land rovers on a bumpy table? It can still be done — and be believable. “Moon” is evocative of the sci-fi greats whose visuals were done in-camera, i.e., on set as opposed to being created by computers in post-production. Sam Bell’s unearthly home is comfortable yet aging like the patina of an old cottage. Nathan Parker’s screenplay (Jones wrote the story but handed over screen writing duties to Parker) makes the most of Sam Rockwell’s considerable talents. This was quite a physically demanding role, as well, and rarely has the actor been better (watch “Snow Angels,” though). He doesn’t just carry the film — “Moon” is almost a one-man show and Rockwell conducts a master class. “Moon” is a classic, down and dirty (literally) science fiction film with a baffling mystery that challenges the viewer to live in the shoes of the protagonist. It’s hard to imagine a better one than Sam Rockwell or a more effective, entertaining, and satisfying cinematic experience.

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