Saturday, December 5, 2009

MOON (Duncan Jones, 2009, UK) Sam is a broken Bell, a hollow creation whose harmonics begin to sound the lonely chimes of madness. His only companion is a HAL-like computer named GERTY, a gently reassuring voice amid the echoing corridors of isolation: a machine imbued with empathy and a sublime human concern for Sam but seems idly withdrawn at times, as if some secret microchip lurks under its scared surface, a fatal virus that infests its circuitry. Director Duncan Jones creates an ethereal atmosphere that mirrors the cold technicality of the Jupiter One while advancing a mystery as strange as the haunting of Solaris. The set designs are reminiscent of the Nostromo and Valley Forge: even Sam Bell (one of them, at least) is an echo of the shaggy Freeman Lowell in the Douglas Trumball classic, nurturing his plants as if they were children. The film is ripe with homage to these serious science fiction dramas but retains a life (or lives) of its own: this is obviously a labor of love for Jones, his desire to break the bondage of the modern day “sci-fi” genre which has devolved into vapid action spectacle. MOON is a cold introspection into the barren landscape of the human psyche, its malleable content like the soft lunar dust. The narrative seems unfinished like the mind of a newborn, birthed into its brief life. Jones only allows a subjective viewpoint as Sam begins to unwind, his three year contract almost expired, and explicit explanations are visualized but never grounded in solid fact: we could be experiencing the final madness of brain trauma. GERTY seems to be the clue that Sam’s psychosis isn’t fiction but the acceptance of a harsh reality: he is one of many clones who is designed to oversee the factory, his few memories newly implanted with a life expectancy of three years. He must soon confront himself, the most formidable adversary, and the slow realization that they may share the exact DNA still doesn’t make them anything less than distinct individuals. Sam Rockwell’s excellent performance is a one-man tour de force, allowing each character to become slightly different, to grow into a new person. The only distraction is use of sound effects on the Moon’s surface as the machines harvest the Helium-3: it’s a mistake that should not have been overlooked. Finally, Sam is able to make live contact with Earth and learns a terrible truth about his family, and makes a last sacrifice for the stranger who shares his likeness. (B+)

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