Moon Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated June 11th, 2009 at 1:43 pm,

Short version: Moon is an interesting, well-acted film that takes what could have been cliched sci-fi conventions and explores them from a fresh angle.

moon review Moon Review
Screen Rant reviews Moon

Moon is the debut feature film by writer/director Duncan Jones. The film stars Sam Rockwell, the voice of Kevin Spacey and… actually just those two, really. The film is set on the lunar base Selene in a future where Helium 3, a gas mined from the moon’s surface, holds the key to reversing Earth’s energy crisis.

Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the one-man team assigned to Selene on a three-year contract. Bell’s primary job is waiting around days on end for one of the corporation’s three automated lunar harvesters to register a full Helium 3 load, which he then extracts and jettisons to Earth on a small space transport.

Moon opens as Bell is coming to the end of his three-year term. He’s bored, isolated, lonely and desperately aching to be reunited with his wife and the daughter he never met back on Earth. Bell’s only “friend” on the station is GERTY (voice of Spacey), an artificial intelligence system charged with watching over Sam and keeping him pacified and focused on his job.

As his time on the station comes to a close, Sam starts feeling strange. He starts seeing things, feeling odd pangs of emotion, and even some physical pain. One day, while out on a routine Helium 3 extraction, Sam suffers a terrible accident that prompts the corporation to initiate a horrifying contingency plan, all but forgetting about Sam even as his life hangs in the balance.

I’ll stop there. I’ve been debating for some time about how much of the plot of Moon I should reveal. In this case, it’s hard to judge where the line between spoilers and non-spoilers falls. I will say this: What you think is going to be Moon‘s eleventh-hour plot twist is actually a first-half-hour plot twist. Conventions that other sci-fi films try to use as a climatic gimmick, Moon uses as a jumping-off point. Already that catapults the film far ahead of other sci-fi movies, landing it in a realm of originality all its own. And, to its credit, Moon does a pretty good job building on that fresh terrain.

The real standout in this film is Sam Rockwell. Those familiar with some of Rockwell’s back catalog (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Matchstick Men, Choke) know what a dangerously underrated actor he is. In Moon, Rockwell is (essentially) a one-man show: He gets up on screen and for 97 minutes takes his character through every conceivable emotion you could ever be asked to portray at an acting workshop. And not only is the performance funny, sad, freaky, thought-provoking and totally believable, it’s also very engaging. It’s a hard thing for one actor to hold an audience’s interest for a whole movie (Tom Hanks got an Oscar nom for it), yet every time I thought I knew what Sam Bell was going to do next, I was surprised. A great performance.

moon gerty Moon ReviewI also really enjoyed the “character” of GERTY. It’s essentially Kevin Spacey’s voice (which is somehow simultaneously soothing and slightly unnerving) and a robotic arm with a small monitor screen displaying an emoticon. And yet somehow, despite his monotone dialogue and programmed responses, GERTY nearly steals every scene he’s in and is arguably the most “human” character in the film. Some people might be tempted to say, “Dude, it’s HAL from 2001,” but in the end, I think GERTY will win most viewers over.

With Moon, writer-director Duncan Jones (who is David Bowie’s son, BTW) has definitely managed to achieve the nearly impossible: Breaking free of sci-fi conventions to create something new and unique, and yet oddly familiar. Like with GERTY, there were a couple of times during the movie I thought it was going to become a carbon-copy of this or that famous sci-fi film – but every time I started to feel that way, Jones managed to veer things just far enough off the beaten path to keep Moon feeling refreshingly interesting. Jones, I suspect, will become a very accomplished sci-fi director if he chooses to stay with the genre.

The only real criticism I have with this film is the story. The characters are well rendered, the plot never really gets lost in its own convolutions, and the major themes (even the implied ones) are very, very, interesting to think about. Moon is one of those movies you finish seeing and immediatly want to see again, knowing what you know now.

Tension is the real weak point of the story. Without giving too much away, lets just say that the nature of the plot makes it hard for the story to have any real sense of narrative or thematic tension. The ending of the film is primarily a thematic payoff, one that could be hard for some viewers to relate to on a personal or emotional level. Basically the film is like watching skilled philosophers (that would be Moon co-writers Jones and Nathan Parker) positing a philosophical point and calling that posited point a “climax.” Sure, what’s being posited may be interesting, but how many people are going to care?

In the end, though Moon may fall short of stirring the heart, it sure does stir the intellect. And let’s face it: Intellectual stimulation is pretty much what sci-fi fans are all about. Moon is a high point for the genre, and Douglas Jones and Sam Rockwell deserve a lot of the credit for taking it into orbit.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. Didn’t realize you were viewing it so soon – sweet. sounds like I’ll have to check it out for my sci-fi fix. got plenty of it coming too.

  2. i was already interested in seeing this. But now im more interested. Thanks from the review. Sam Rockwell looks great in this and he is a very talented actor.

  3. It’s only got 1 bad review on RT, out of 23 I think. When I saw the trailer, I thought of The Island or The 6th Day, but from Kofi’s review I might be pleasently surprised. Thanks Kofi.

  4. Sounds interesting. is this coming out in wide release or on 40 screens like “Fanboys”?

    I have a idea what happens at the end but I won’t say,,,

  5. @790
    I’m going to spoil it for you: Darth Vader is Luke’s father; everybody on the train did it; Jeff Bridges is the killer; and to top it all off, there were 2 guys killing people with masks on! So there! 8) :-)

  6. I can’t waitttttttttt to see this ! Thank god I live so close to New York and can see it even tho its limited.

  7. Yeah I’ve heard that about Vader,,, man that’s gotta sting.


  8. What about Vader’s wife…Ella?

  9. Ella? Ok, I know there’s a joke in there somewhere, because Vader’s wife was Armadala. Oh, wait, I just got it…Ella-Vader! Hey, look, I didn’t have any coffee today so give me some slack! :-)

  10. As long as it doesn’t end like Life on Mars in reverse (the US version), I think I’ll like it.

  11. Sounds excellent. Does make me think of Silent Running, although that was a heartstring tugger. That movie cemented Bruce Dern as one of my favs.

    Really like Rockwell, and Spacey’s voice seems perfect for a computer.

  12. Oh, and also appreciate not saying much as I’ve got no idea about this movie other than this review, so want to watch it knowing as little as possible.

  13. It sounds interesting, but I will most likely wait to see it through Netflix. I seriously doubt that it’ll be released anywhere near me unless the limited run does well and they expand its release.

  14. I looked it up. According to Yahoo it has a limited release. On another website, I read that it will only be release in New York and L.A.

  15. thanks for the review, looks awesome. A thoughtful sci fi movie is just what we need. Something to sink my teeth in until Avatar.

  16. Wait, so for us “normal” people who don’t live in New York or one of those wacko metro cities we have to wait for it to come out on DVD?? That sucks…

  17. I’m going to the Moon sometime next week… Right now there’s nothing else in the theaters.

    Pretty sad that movies like “Imagine That” or “G Force/3D” get released over serious sci fi films. With just 10% of T4′s marketing budget, I’m sure “Moon” could have had at least a 20mil opening weekend. Look at the compatish its a joke.

  18. Well i’d rather wake up in a city that never sleeps then be ” normal “…

  19. LOL, silly catch phrases can’t save you! :-P lol just kidding.

    What exactly is there to do all night for the city to “never sleep?” Are they just talking about going to clubs and bars or what? I’m not being sarcastic, asking for real.

  20. Ken don’t you live in Florida?

  21. Yah, we have cities here, but it’s a far cry from New York city. It’s more of a suburbia where I live, lol.

  22. New York is full of good people. Suburbia is only a 20 trip from Manhattan.

    I especially like the cops in NY very professional, and I’m being serious.

  23. I guess I should start reading what Vic says. I looked for this in the DC area and it doesn’t get released here until July 10th. FELDERCARB!

  24. Duncan or Douglas Jones?

    Oh and I agree with the review, Sam did a great job!

  25. Just saw this and its real good.

    People looking for giant robots that battle each other stay at home. :-)

    The film had a very subtile yet powerfull ending. The last line you hear gives you the chills,,,

  26. No giant robots???????


    :-D just kidding, any news on a wide release for the rest of America’s population?

  27. There are some cool LUNAR H3 Harvesters actually.

    I think its going to break larger next month. Its a trippy film I’m still thinking about it.
    One problem blogging about it is that once the twist is revealed it would ruin the impact for those that havnt seen it yet. Since its only playing on 8 screens (no joke) I can’t say much.

    I will say the story plays out like a real good Twilight Zone/Outer Limits episode. The acting is amazing. When you see it you’ll get what I mean.

  28. Also I would have given it 5 out of 5. ;-)