In the new movie Moon, we get all of our energy from mining on the moon, human cloning is possible and we have sentient robot helpers. And, surprise surprise, all that fancy tech creates some pretty serious problems.
The movie surrounds the ordeals of Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell, turning in an incredible performance), a astronaut who's stationed on the moon to oversee the mining of Helium 3, a compound that the Earth now relies on for all of its energy needs. His only companion is Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey), a Hal-like robot with a yellow smiley face that acts as his helper and sole companion.
He's nearing the end of his three-year contract and is seriously ready to go home. Thanks to some busted communications satellites, he can only communicate with his wife and daughter on the surface via recorded messages, and the isolation has him at the end of his rope.
The real trouble begins when he gets in a rover accident checking on one of the automated mining vehicles that methodically crawl over the surface of the moon. He wakes up in the infirmary with Gerty looking after him. When he goes outside the base to investigate what happened, he finds his crashed vehicle—with him alive inside it.
This, of course, is troubling, and this is where the movie starts to get really interesting. Because both the Sam in the accident and the Sam who woke up in the infirmary are real, and neither knows what the hell the other is doing there.
The mystery of who each of them are and why they're there unravels slowly, and some of the best parts of the movie are them interacting together. Sam Rockwell does an amazing job of making each one instantly distinguishable from the other, and there are some truly stunning special effects used to have them interact together seamlessly. Ever seen a guy play ping pong against himself?
To go too much further into the story would spoil some of the more rewarding reveals, but suffice to say they figure out some pretty unsettling secrets about the lunar mining operation.
The film's themes and setting feel familiar to anyone who's followed sci-fi movies in the past, specifically 2001 and Solaris as well as the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (which is being made into a movie due out next year). Gerty is obviously an homage to Hal, with his soothing monotone and not-quite-human demeanor, but he manages to eclipse your expectations for a sentient space-robot and consistently surprise you.
It's not a flawless movie. While the special effects that make Sam Rockwell able to interact with himself are incredible, the low budget shows through more with the models of the lunar base, which is less than convincing.
The pacing feels off throughout, with large events feeling imminent and then happening without enough impact. And while the story feels like it should pack an emotional wollop, it's just not that affecting in the end. This may have something to do with the fact that, when all is revealed, the motivations behind the explanations aren't entirely justified.
That being said, Moon is definitely worth seeing to anyone interested in slow, heady sci-fi; sci-fi that explores the complex issues we're going to confront when tomorrow's technology is available to us rather than explosions and lasers.
Moon opens tonight in NY and LA.