Why “Moon” Deserves a Second Look

Why “Moon” Deserves a Second Look

We’ve been in quarantine for six-months. Sam Bell’s been alone on the moon for three years. Which one of us is more antsy? Let’s see why Duncan Jones’ brilliant sci-fi indie is worth a second look.

We are six months into a quarantined lifestyle. Some cope with it well, others not so much. That timeframe is nothing compared to what Sam Bell, our main character, has endured. He’s been working on a lunar base all on his lonesome for three years. His only companion is an artificial intelligent computer named Gerty that combines emoticons with a monotone voice reminiscent of HAL 9000. One day he goes out for one of his regular duties: to collect energized rock and send it to Earth. On this minor expedition, his rover crashes. He wakes up in the infirmary without a scratch. Gerty tells him he had an accident. But when he goes out for another excursion he finds the crash as well as himself. Now, the two Sam Bells have to deal with the fact that one or both of them are clones. 

Here is a character study on the mental detriment of extended periods of loneliness as well as the state of our own existence. Whether clone, illusion, or something else, Sam must deal with a multitude of human dilemmas. When he meets the clone he’s scared, as anybody would be, but he’s also desperate for human companionship. Imagine being alone for three whole years and then the only human companionship you find is with a clone of yourself. Apart from questioning whether you yourself are a clone, would you try to hang out? You’ve been isolated, depressed, and found ways to entertain yourself. While at times they get combatic, they are, at the end of the day, each other. They share memories, emotions and interests. The Sams learn that being friendly is the only way they’re going to survive together. They play ping pong, bond over the love of their wife, who they believe is waiting for them on Earth. But the question remains, is she on Earth with the original Sam Bell and are they clones of him? They plan together to find the purpose of their existence.

In this one man character study, you need a talented actor to pull of the two Sam Bells. The one that’s been their three years is stir crazy and the other is a fresh Sam, who’s only been there two weeks. It’s a balancing act of being the same person in two different mindsets. If two Sams isn’t difficult enough for you the reader to digest, they are portrayed by a third, Sam Rockwell. I’ve loved Sam Rockwell for as long as long as I can remember. I first saw him in Charlie’s Angels (2000) where he played the suave dancing bad guy Eric Knox. I saw him act on Broadway opposite Christopher Walken in A Behanding in Spokane, a dark comedy about a crime boss holed up in a hotel room. And I was so happy to see him finally get an Oscar nod for his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as a racist cop who still lives with his mom. I delight in seeing him tackle a role where he has to act two versions of the same person. He seamlessly transitions from dramatic to comedic, from withheld to outrageous, and from lazy to determined. The role, I learned, was actually written for him

I commend Duncan Jones for helming this project by directing it and by co-writing it with Nathan Parker. When dealing with a story that takes place in one location and has essentially one actor, there has to be a strong directorial voice, dynamic filmmaking, and comprehensive editing. All of these are on display in Moon. Gerty could have been derivative of HAL 9000, but Gerty’s motivations are less inhuman. HAL 9000 needs the mission to survive, whether or not that means the survival of the men on board. In contrast, Gerty is there to protect Sam Bell, regardless of which Sam Bell. The robot is a friendlier presence who may have some dark secrets but is always there to protect. This is a much more interesting use of an artificial intelligent character, because usually AIs just want to kill everybody.

Moon didn’t hit hard at the box office, making only about $10 million dollars worldwide with a budget of around $5 million. But it’s an engaging, exciting, funny, original, and suspenseful film. With similarities to 2001 and one character movies like Cast Away, this movie is unlike anything I’ve seen. It has a personality and story all of its own. It’s one of my personal favorites and I hope it can be one of yours too.

Moon is available to stream on Showtime or to rent on Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.

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