Basking in the glow of the Moon

Been ages since I’ve done a blog post, which is doubly annoying as I’ve been meaning to write a quick review/recommendation of the film “Moon” for a week now.

“Moon” is a fantastic low-budget science fiction movie which is unfortunately getting only a limited release. That’s because it’s a grown-up piece of film-making that isn’t going to appeal to anyone who needs things to blow up or open fire every five seconds in a film. Fans of “Transformers 2” and “GI Joe” will be bored rigid by this film, in other words, and are better off staying with the blockbusters.

“Moon” instead shares its DNA with the SF films of the 60s and 70s. The one it is most compared to is “Silent Running”, a new age oddball SF film which indeed shares the themes of a lonely astronaut, left tending plants and doing maintenance among the stars with only some anthropomorphic robots for company. But cineastes can have great fun spotting a slew of other influences throught the film, with “2001” in evidence, and the slow pace of the original “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” misfire, but with the set design owing much to “Alien” while the countdown clock evoking memories of the Sean Connery “High Noon”-inspired film “Outland”.

In many ways, “Moon” most reminds me of a scuffed, dirtied version of the Gerry Anderson TV series “Space: 1999”, which also had high minded aspirations of science fiction, and was itself more “2001” than “Star Wars” which has begat the noisy, action-packed blockbusters of today.

A lot will depend on how you take to the leading man, Sam Rockwell. If you like him then you’ll love this movie; if you don’t, then – well, he’s pretty much the entire thing. He gives a beatitful, complex, intelligent and (ahem) multifaceted performance in this film, often with only a computer called GERTY voiced by Kevin Spacey to bounce off of. The film’s small cast and Amiga-style CGI FX are the only signs of a low budget for this film of high aspiration.

It’s difficult to say too much more about the film without giving away the plot. It’s not that there are shock twists and turns – to anyone who knows their SF this is actually all fairly well-traveled roads once the one big reveal is out of the way relatively early on after a mining vehicle accident. The film doesn’t rush its revealing of the plot, and there are times when you wish it would get a move on a bit, but at the same time it’s a relief that it never succumbs to the temptation to liven things up and throw in some action. The closest we get is a shambolic, messy punch-up between two of the astronauts which ends up with a lot of blood. This future hurts.

In the end, the film is interesting in the things left unresolved. There are at least four different ways to read the film, including the “it was all a dream” one; and many seemingly important plot points such as a sudden cut in a ‘live’ video transmission go unremarked upon thereafter, or why GERTY suddenly starts to help Sam find out the truth. They can be interpreted as plot holes or poor continuity – or equally, the mark of intelligent film-making that doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out for us and reckons we have a brain of our own.

It’s a lovely, refreshing view that I’ll take anytime over the cynical money-making machines that bring us the unasked-for “Night at the Museum 2” and “Transformers 2” for no reason other than the first film made a truckload of money. Do go and see it if you can, and quickly, because most of the screens are taken up showing this week’s latest blockbuster and there’s precious little space for quiet, quality films to set up shop for long.

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