Recommended Viewing Situation:
Sitting in a tin can, far above the world. Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing you can do.
Running Time: 97 Minutes.
Format: 35mm Film.
Director: Duncan Jones.
Writers: Duncan Jones (story), Nathan Parker.
Cinematographer: Gary Shaw.
Awards: 1 BAFTA win for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
It is 2035 and Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works alone on the moon, mining for helium-3 and sending it back to earth, where fossil fuels are running out. He is approaching the end of a three year mission and is looking forward to being reunited with wife Tess and meeting their daughter, Eve, with whom Tess was pregnant when he left. Communication with earth is poor and video messages, frustratingly, are pre-recorded and played back.
Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) is Sam’s computer companion and can cater to most needs, from personal grooming to medical attention and just being a friend. With the exception of Gerty, Sam is alone.
Or so he thought.
Discovering an unconscious astronaut in his lunar rover whilst outside the base one day, he brings him back to the infirmary and thus begins a voyage of discovery to rival Sam’s initial voyage to the moon. Sam has a lonely job but so does Rockwell, which he does admirably. His portrayal of a man who misses his wife, yet succeeds at his lonely job and then copes with the gradual peeling back of layers of deceit is carried out sensitively. Spacey has an authoritative yet comforting tone to his voice as Gerty.
‘Moon’ is director Duncan Jones’ debut and despite being a story of tomorrow, reflects real issues of today. Depleting fossil fuels and space travel are themes that touch our lives and in ‘Moon’ the former has led to the latter to mine for helium-3. (Ironically, the effect of the latter on the former is hotly debated in the real world.) Jones is praised for his scientific accuracy throughout; for example, the possibility of mining the moon for helium-3 is currently under debate, in preparation for when reserves of fossil fuels cannot support the burgeoning population anymore. Interestingly, Jones chose a time less than twenty years in the future for ‘Moon’. Understandable, given his chosen themes but possibly a comment on concerns about how rapidly fuel stores are running out.
With the occasional few bars of classical music (Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto) sometimes aligned with shots from space, there is more than a passing resemblance to ‘Space Odyssey: 2001’, especially given the old-fashioned feel of special effects created with models and props. And given that Jones is the late David Bowie’s son, the theme of space travel is undoubtedly close to his heart. Listen to the lyrics of a ‘Space Oddity’ and Major Tom could be Sam Bell.
‘Moon’ tells a story that has not happened yet. But the themes are relevant to our lives and even more relevant to those of subsequent generations: possibly the next generation. It also raises ethical and philosophical questions about identity, treatment of people and of human life. Is it ethical to mislead someone if they never find out or suffer as a result? Is it ever alright to play God? You won’t get the answers by watching it, but it will give you plenty on which to reflect.