Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Moon - Review

There is an age old saying when it comes to celebrating nostalgia be it movies, cars, houses, fashion, toys, cartoons etc that "they don't make 'em like they use to". For the most part this is usually a correct assumption however it is always so delightfully satisfying when something comes out of nowhere to take you by surprise and invoke those memories of years past. Perhaps quite fitting (or perhaps too convenient?) that the release of this film comes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the first ever moon landing, Moon, directed by début director Duncan Jones (aka son of rock icon and general 70s/80s oddball, David Bowie) and starring one of the blog's favourite indie men Sam Rockwell, is set in a future where man has finally cracked how to use fusion as a solid, sustainable energy source by mining the materials straight off the moon's surface. The sole human mining the materials is that of Sam Bell (Rockwell), along with his trusty super computer GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey...ripped from 2001: A Space Odyssey). Coming to the end of his 3 year contract on the station, leaving behind wife Tess and 3 year old daughter Eve, things start to go a wary for Sam after he experiences a bad crash on the moon's surface which unravels a chain of events that will make him question his own very existence.

Sam Rockwell is perhaps one of the few modern actors I take great pleasure in watching on screen with an extremely wide range of emotions displayed in almost any film he has ever appeared in, criminally overlooked for a best supporting actor nod at the Oscars this year for his role as author James Reston Jr in Frost/Nixon, in Moon he delivers a performance that could arguably be the first genuine contender for a Best Actor nomination at next year's Oscars showing naive hope, crushing despair as well as a beautiful and endearing display of light hearted comedy. Essentially the only other actor to appear in the film (albeit in voice only) opposite Rockwell was Kevin Spacey as the voice of Sam's super computer, and though perhaps only present to inject a bit of Hollywood glitz into the affair, he performs his duties competently and in a very understated manner. With Spacey's voice coming across as emotionless, the effects crew add a clever addition to his computer body in the form of "MSN-like Emoticons" appearing on a small monitor, changing any time he spoke a word to reflect his mood and inner emotions, which served as light relief to the film's dark monolithic backdrop.

Capturing that sense of loneliness and isolation, Jones really impresses with the entire production of this film, making a fantastic, stylish looking sci-fi on a tight, modest budget of 5 million dollars, the set designs felt futuristic yet totally plausible to the point that you could nearly imagine this as the future in decades to come. One could rightly point out however, that the story does start to lose direction towards the film's climax and that a lot of the ideas are not entirely original (they aren't) however I prefer to see it as a homage to the films that clearly gave Jones the inspiration to make Moon into the film we see before us, with cues and references from the likes of Alien, Silent Running and 2001 as well as more subtle nods to the films of Hitchcock for its mystery and suspense. As already pointed out the film's main flaw is that the story does suffer half way through which is more a criticism aimed at the screenwriter Nathan Parker as oppose to the wonderful job Jones does at the director's chair, capturing some beautiful cinematography on top of the mesmerising score by the consistently brilliant Clint Mansell (previously works include most of Darren Aronofsky's movies, highlights being Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain as well as often appearing against car montages on BBC's Top Gear), also look out for a completely unsuspecting appearance by a one hit wonder chart single doubling as Sam's clock alarm.

Final Thoughts
Cold, haunting and claustrophobic. An impressive début from Duncan Jones, showing us that he is certainly a director to look out for in the coming years giving the audience an intelligent science fiction tale, featuring no aliens or fictional mumbo jumbo. Combined with Rockwell's titanic performance, Moon comes across as a very special and intimate film which, in an age of saturated CGI and over the top special effects, is very much a rare thing. Not the most original tale I will ever watch by any means and the script could have maybe done with a couple of tweaks, but without a doubt one of 2009's best films by miles in terms of style, acting, direction, musical score and ultimately its celebration of old school science fiction movies. My only disappointment was a lack of Major Tom references... Nevertheless a Triumph!


See this if you like...
Pretty much any science fiction movie from the 1970s and 1980s, because chances are this movie lifted cues and references straight from them.

Moon is in most cinemas now.

Any Belfast readers that frequent, it is regrettably only being shown in the QFT. Support your local art house cinemas!

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