Dir: Duncan Jones
June 24, 2009
AMC Lowes Cambridge MA
David Bowie's son made a film? Yup, Duncan "Zowie Bowie" Jones did and it's a cerebral sci-fi that starts promisingly and then sort of let's itself off the hook. There is plenty to think about by the end, about being alone and loneliness, and madness for that matter, but the ending left me a bit underwhelmed.
Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is an astronaut who works for a company called Lunar Industires that mines helium3 from the surface of the moon for clean energy used on earth. He has a three year contract that is two weeks away from being complete, and is looking forward to being reunited with his wife (Dominique McElligott). Strange things start to happen, or maybe to him, and on a routine round to the harvesters, he has an accident. He wakes up back at the SELENE base, weak and clumsy but seeming unhurt. Sam's only companion, a robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) tries to avoid questions, but eventually, he realizes that something isn't right. He is finally able to get back to the harvester where the accident happened, and in the rover he finds...himself.
Moon is a dying breed of film for sure, a "hard" sci-fi, one that requires some brain cells to watch, and which makes most of the film worth watching. Has Sam's isolation finally gotten to him? He is lonely, and despite the company of Gerty, often talks to himself and spends endless hours working on a model of his hometown, some of which he doesn't remember making. Three years, his wife says in a recorded video message, is "too long." Sam's confusion about "the other guy" in the base soon turns to dialogue between the two; some funny, some tense. But soon a realization comes about between them. Sam is not crazy, and the other guy in the base is not some hallucination brought about by extreme isolation. They are both clones, and neither of them is going to go home, at least not in any sense that they thought.
The look of the film works well with the tone; all of the white in the frame makes if hard to tell where rooms begin and end, and it cramps Sam a lot of time, giving it an appropriate claustrophobic feel. What I thought had been in exercise in loneliness and the dangers of extended space isolation (a-la Solaris) turned into Big Brother-ish paranoia about the greed of the corporate conglomerate. Maybe I was a bit underwhelmed because I thought the whole clone thing was a cop out to the mental aspects of the film that were being looked at in the beginning of the film. But what would we do if we are faced with our doppelgänger? When we are alone, who else is there left to face but ourselves?
In the end though, the film seems to try to be about the clones, and their grasp about who they really are and what they are going to do now that they know the truth about their situation. How real are they? How real is what they do? Someday they will die, and what would that mean? (The "older" Sam seems to be deteriorating as the film progress, maybe having something to do with the 3 year time limit of the contract, which might be the clone's life span. Video evidence that he finds seems to suggest this too.) Their memories seem to be uploaded from the original Sam, and are not what they seem. Who was this Sam, and what happened to his wife? Did it have something to do with giving his DNA for cloning?
By the end, the Sam that has been awake for three years realizes that he doesn't want to go back to earth if he has the chance, and let's the new Sam go in the plan that they come up with. So, my own expectations of the film were not met (clones was just not in my head going into it, and it was just thrown in so nonchalantly), but maybe just because I thought it would be a different type of film. Most sci-fi fans should approve, and it ask questions most films would rather not put in.