The story is set in the near future, and revolves around an astronaut, Sam Bell, who is working alone for three years on a mining station on the moon, with only his computer for company. I’ll not spoil the film by revealing the key development in the film, but you can probably predict the kind of mental, physical and emotional challenges that the situation presents to Sam.
The film’s tagline could almost be “One man on a routine mission in space, all alone. Something’s bound to go wrong, otherwise you’d get bored watching.” And indeed something does go wrong, the solitude of Sam’s existence making him reflect deeply and urgently on who he is and what he really knows about his life and work.
Such themes, and the way that Sam as the key character explores and resolves them, remind me strongly of The Island, a terrific (though admittedly not hugely original) film I saw once at the cinema and must get round to buying on DVD some time.
Moon looks and feels, however, quite different from The Island. The scenes of the lunar landscape are an atmospheric blue-tinged black and white. The interior of the base is spartan, almost retro. In fact, Sam’s softly-spoken, unemotional computer, and the brilliant use of both silence and rhythmic piano score to create an atmosphere of tension, are strong and unashamed echoes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the classic film by Stanley Kubrick based on the Arthur C Clarke novel of the same name.
I’ll be able to think more about the comparison between Moon and 2001 in a couple of weeks, in fact, as I’ll be back to Eden Court to watch it as part of its ongoing Kubrick season.
Finally, any endorsement of Moon must make mention of the brilliant Sam Rockwell, who plays the lead role of Sam Bell. As the only meaningful character in the film, a great deal is required of him to keep our attention and keep the film ticking over. His ability to convey a whole range of emotions and help us understand the difficulties he is facing as he comes to terms with what’s going on, is highly impressive.
While Moon is not a perfect film – there are a one or two bits and pieces that seem inconsistent – it’s a great concept, beautifully-directed and brilliantly acted. The ending, too, is satisfying – a mix of a hopeful and optimistic tone, with a trail of interesting thoughts and questions about who we are and how we perceive our own reality.
I’d say it’s probably the best film I’ve seen at the cinema this year, although given that the only other ones I’ve made it to are Terminator: Salvation and Madagascar 2, that might not be the most helpful complement to pay it.