Friday 11 May 2018

Movie Review: Moon (2009)

A science fiction film, Moon sets up an intriguing premise based on isolation, but follows up with silly conspiracy elements that flounder in space.

In the future, Lunar Industries is a major company harvesting solar energy stored in rocks on the dark side of the moon and launching the resulting power-packed canisters back to Earth. The mining operation is mostly automated, and Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the only technician on-site, contracted to spend three years at the moon command centre to oversee operations. Sam's only company is the robot GERTY (voice of Kevin Spacey), who controls the facility.

With his three years almost up, Sam is forlorn and starting to suffer from delusions. He is also frustrated that the main communications channel with Earth is inoperable, and the company does not seem to be in a hurry to fix it. The video transmittals back and forth with his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) are recorded and days late, adding to his sense of loneliness. When Sam ventures out to the mining fields to inspect a harvesting machine he suffers a crash, triggering a shocking discovery about Lunar Industries' work practices.

Moon's one significant twist arrives relatively early, and revealing it would defang the little bit of interest offered by the film. Sufficient to say that the Nathan Parker script, from a story by Duncan Jones, hinges on generating outrage around the use of technology that appears to be much closer to fruition and perfection than mining the sun's energy from the dark side of the moon and zipping it back to Earth.

As Sam Bell gets to grip with what the film, breathlessly, insists is a sinister conspiracy, director Duncan Jones loses his grip and the experience becomes a tiresome exercise in misdirected indignation. The pace is slow, the running time tedious even at just 97 minutes, and Jones struggles to find new content for much of the second half before resorting to a hackneyed climax.

What remains is a well-intentioned, limited budget independent science fiction film, filled with stark imagery both inside the control centre and on the moon's surface as the gigantic machinery silently goes about its business.

From a performance perspective the film is essentially a one-man show, and Sam Rockwell fills the screen with the alienation of a man left alone for too long, with only an infuriatingly compliant robot for company. Sam is at emotional capacity dealing with a busted communications system, unresolved tension with his wife back on Earth, and separation from his young daughter. Things do get both more interesting and more dangerous for him after the extraordinary post-crash revelation, but despite the excellent central performance Moon chooses the wrong orbit to follow, and gets lost in a narrative vacuum.

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