A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 171 – Moon (2009)

Moon (2009)

I’m not rightly sure I how I can review this movie. If you’ve seen it, perhaps you understand my troubles. If not, I will warn you that I’m not sure I’ll be able to steer entirely clear of spoilers. The plot of the movie is the unraveling of one big twist. It’s a mystery and an excellently used gimmick. Where Memento’s gimmick and mystery were inextricably twined, Moon’s are fused. And so I will try. I promise. But I can’t make any guarantees and it’s entirely possible I’ll end up accidentally giving away too much and you’ll put the pieces together and figure it out.

The literal story of the movie involves Sam Bell, an employee of Lunar Industries, which mines the moon for helium 3, the source of the cleanest energy on Earth. He is the sole employee in the moon base that monitors the remote-operated harvesters. He’s nearing the end of his three year contract and he’s getting a little loopy. He’s seeing things. He gets distracted easily. He’s had no live contact with Earth during his contract and well, he’s lonely. He misses his wife and the daughter she was pregnant with when he left. He wants to go home. He has two more weeks. And then there’s an accident.

After the accident certain things about the operation of the base start to get a little confusing for Sam. Some bits add up, and others don’t, and the sums all look bad anyhow. Lunar Industries seems to be doing some shady stuff, and there’s less than a day before a “rescue” crew shows up to take care of things. I’d put more of that in quotations but that seems like overkill. It makes for a tense countdown, with the clock ever-present in the background, counting down until the Eliza gets there. It’s really a countdown for Sam’s survival, and I don’t count that as a spoiler, to be perfectly honest. The stakes aren’t the trick to it all.

Part of the point of the movie seems to be the nature of solitude and self and who we are when we’re only with ourselves. It’s about isolation and loneliness and the things that get people through a tough job when you end up talking to yourself for lack of better conversation. The only entity on the base other than Sam is a computer assistant named GERTY. GERTY states several times that it’s there to help Sam. That is its function. GERTY seems to exhibit emotion every so often, concern about Sam and the problems that have cropped up. But when you examine GERTY’s actual actions and lines, perhaps that’s just the ELIZA effect cropping up, with pre-programmed phrases seeming to impart emotion where there’s only data. I can’t help but assume that the name of the ship coming to the moon is a direct reference to that. As is Sam’s parting line to GERTY: “We’re not programmed. We’re people.”

I’ve done a good deal of reading about people in isolated jobs. McMurdo base down in Antarctica, for example. McMurdo and its inhabitants fascinate me. Did you know one year a man completely snapped down there? Strolled into the cafeteria and smacked his boss in the head with a hammer. They had to get the fire crew to restrain him and lock him in a room until they could get him off the ice. What do you do in a situation where you only have one human employee, and something’s going wrong, and he’s on the moon? That’s far more isolated than McMurdo.

Sam Rockwell is really the only actor who appears on screen for any significant length of time. There are a couple of other people, but for the most part it’s just Sam as Sam, on the base, knowing that things aren’t right and unsure of exactly how to fix them. Kevin Spacey does a fantastic job with the voice of GERTY, imparting his programmed concern into Sam’s scenes. Somehow, with only animated smileys and Spacey’s voice, GERTY manages to be a real character in the movie.

It’s a science fiction movie, to be certain. There’s all sorts of futuristic technology, after all. Sam’s living in a base on the moon! But the power of the movie is in Sam Rockwell’s performance, playing off GERTY and his own isolation. It’s in the calm score and the eerily quiet scenes outside the base on the moon. It’s in a shot of the Earth, seen from the moon’s surface, so close and so far. It’s in the tension and the confusion and the mystery and the incredibly well-written gimmick.

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August 18, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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